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Santa Rosa Snippets by Elaine B. Holtz

Santa Rosa on Fire

Oct 25, 2017
by Elaine B. Holtz

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On the morning of October 9, 2017 at approximately 2:30am the lives of thousands of Santa Rosa residents changed. I was sitting at my computer when I smelled smoke; I searched the house, but saw no fire so I went outside and was met by howling winds and a sky that was bright red. Little did I know that just 2.5 miles away from me was at that time, Coffey Park burning down? “What is going on?” I thought to myself. I went back to the computer and typed in “fire in Santa Rosa” and was shocked to see the list of fires in our area. Ten minutes later my neighbors knocked on the door and in a state of panic were yelling, “We have to leave! We have to leave right now!” We calmed each other down, saw our block was safe and decided not leave until we were told to do so. Then the lights went out, no electricity as we felt around for flashlights and candles. For the next five days my partner Ken Norton and I lived with a curfew, no electricity, gas or telephones. We were so unprepared and when we finally found a radio in the morning light that worked with the C batteries we had, we began to discover how bad it truly was.

This is the first time I’ve ever been in a disaster like this one. As it unfolded I thought about if we had to evacuate: Where we would go? What we would take with us? We had time when some folks only had seconds to pack our car with what we and our dog Rosey needed when it was time to flee. What got us through all this were our good neighbors and we were able to stay in our house. We were fortunate that the wildfire did not destroy our neighborhood.

Five days later when the utilities got turned on we saw the photos and videos that were made of the devastation in Santa Rosa I thought of all the tragedies that have happened over the last several months and recognized that before I was a voyeur, looking on, not participating.  Well, that is no longer true, because now I know what it feels like and how vulnerable we really are. My heart goes out to all the families who lost so many special things and those who lost loved ones. I have grown in empathy and compassion along with recognizing the value of good government and radio.           

A special shout out to KSRO and their sister stations for all the updates and encouragement and even help us laugh. To KBBF 89.1 our local bi-lingual station. To all those near and far who fought the fires and kept the city moving and working to assure safety for all of us. A special shout out to Senator Mike McGuire, every time he was on I felt safer. To our Sheriff Robert Giordano, our Board of Supervisors and City Council. All these folks were amazing and kept us informed and calmed us down via the radio. Thank you to the firefighters, the hundreds of volunteers, the places that opened their doors and became shelters.

We are a village and it is times like this that let us know there is no them or us, there is only us. By the time you read this three weeks have passed and I am sure reality is sinking in more and more. All of us need to keep our eye on the prize, continue to support and value one another and before we turn around this will be part of our history. My deep condolences to all those who lost their homes and possessions.. I know it will be hard however. I believe even in the worst times something good evolves. Patience, Persistance and Prayer always work for me.

Awards and Congratulations: Congratulations toLisa Maldonado, Director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Sonoma County was honored at the 14th Annual North Bay Labor Council, and AFL-CIO Committee on Political Action (COPE) banquet with the Senator Pat Wiggins Working Class Hero Award. Also recognized are North Bay Jobs with Justice.

Something to think about: “From my perspective, I absolutely believe in a greater spiritual power, far greater than I am, from which I have derived strength in moments of sadness or fear. That’s what I believe, and it was very, very strong in the forest. Dame Jane Morris Goodall DBE, formerly Baroness Jane van Lawick-Goodall, is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace.” Wikipedia.

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