When I write this column, two days pass before it appears in print. That makes some topics risky. Anything that’s still in motion can make 600 words obsolete in the blink of an eye.
But on this day and in this place, there’s no avoiding the Marshall Fire.
Boulder County passed from one year to the next in a burst of fire and ice. And no one could look away. The December wildfire – December! – shot around the world at the speed of news, one last piece of horror in a year beyond belief.
But when a disaster hits close to home, it’s more than just news.
It’s realizing you know the hospital that’s evacuating. Or the animal shelter that’s in the line of fire. It’s the sudden memory of how many friends live nearby and the discovery of how many more you didn’t know about.
Who’s safe? What’s been lost? Can anyone do something? The questions race, the answers crawl. And the images burn our hearts and souls.
We hold to hope. Even as we fear to.
And sometimes, beyond belief, the hope holds.
On Saturday morning, one person was missing. One. In a fire that may have swallowed over a thousand homes. That’s staggering.
I’m not ringing bells yet. Even if that’s the final toll, one person is still too many when the person is yours. I hope and pray that by the time this appears in print, everyone has made it to safety.
And I’m thankful beyond words that so many already have.
I shouldn’t be surprised, I suppose. We know disasters here. We know what to do. The details differ, but the essentials remain the same whether we’re facing fire or flood, blizzard or pandemic:
- Be aware of what’s going on.
- Don’t try to “ride it out” – take active steps to protect your safety.
- Help your neighbor.
Yes, you can do everything right and still have things go wrong. But the more people that do it, the less gets left to chance.
And when the fires came, so many did the right thing.
They listened. They left without hesitation. They helped others who might not have been able to flee on their own: friends, family, animals. Those not in the danger zone helped make a landing space for those escaping it.
And together, they carried through.
No. Together, WE carried through.
In a time of uncertainty, that’s a heck of a foundation to build on.
It’s here that I have to bring up Betty White, the beloved actress who died New Year’s Eve, less than three weeks away from her 100th birthday. (I promise, this is relevant.) As so many shared their memories and sadness, a Twitter comment pointed out a lesson to be learned: live your life so that, even if you live to 99, everyone will say the time was still too short.
In the midst of fire and fear, I think we’re seeing a lot of people living that sort of life already.
Thank you all. For raising up. For reaching out. And for holding so much together when the world tries to tear it apart.
I can’t see the future. Heck, I can’t even see Monday’s paper. But on this day and in this place, I can see the light you share.
And that’s something that will never be obsolete.