It started in the night. Sparks of a car, unusually strong wind and a couple of trees. That's all it took to start the devastating Northern California wildfires. Many people lost their homes but luckily, I wasn't one of them. Living a good 20 or more miles south of sonoma meant I didn't see any flames but that's not saying much.
I could see smoke far away and the air certainly smelled odd that Monday. The next day was worse, we could see the smoke hanging in the air, scarves and handkerchiefs were not uncommon. More than twice during class we got loudspeaker announcements ordering for all windows to be closed. I didn't go to after school rehearsal that day. In fact, all sports practices were canceled. Everyone knew that the best thing to do is to go home and stay inside. The same thing happened Wednesday but it was even worse because the winds had picked up and it was sending more of the smoke towards us. They began handing out medical masks to wear in a hope to filter out some of the tiny bits of smoke in the air. That whole week the only thing on the news was the fire, people herding animals out of fire zones, people flooding into nearby schools to get dinner and have a place to stay, and people in helicopters spilling red stuff over forests of flames.
That was the night when we got the first call. I was begrudgingly doing my homework when the phone rang. My mom picked it up then she came over to me and put it on speaker phone. “Hello, this is your principle speaking. We have a special announcement from the head of the school district.” The phone then switched to the head of the district. “Due to the hazardous air quality school tomorrow will be cancelled as well as all sports games practices and tutoring.” I stayed at home that day, I finished my homework and later in the day texted my friends who had gone to school that day. They all went to other schools but also had it bad. School was closed Thursday, Friday and Monday. But it wasn't quite a normal 4 day weekend, what with it not being a holiday and all. I didn't know when I was going back to school, but at least I knew I would have a school to go back to. Others weren't as fortunate, there were stories on the news of kids calling the school to find out if lockers, textbooks, or instruments were still intact. For someone who is pretty active is was weird to stay inside for the entire day.
When school reopened on Tuesday, it wasn't quite a normal day. Sure, we were in class, no flames or thick smoke to be seen but there was still something different. There was still something lingering in the air. It was the small things that you don't think about that were different. People wearing breathing masks, no air conditioning in the classrooms, posters for a homecoming game that had come and gone without ever happening. The rescheduling of standardized tests, and the empty bins waiting for donations for the victims of the fire. The disaster had become yet another charity cause, another bucket for donations, another way to indirectly help out those who had lost everything.
The fire has come and past, those not affected have moved on. It was similar to every disaster that comes our way, hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, shootings. They make it into the news, the footages alarms people across the country. And then it stops, and gets replaced with a new scary thing. I am grateful that such a terrible event was more natural that human caused and that it wasn't an act of hate but I still think we need to stop making tragedy a trend. First it's Ferguson, then Flint, Standing Rock, Orlando, Charlottesville… the list goes on. Whether a natural disaster like a hurricane or fire, or a human act of violence. We need to do our part to stop these things. Stop hate with art. Be prepared for natural disaster with emergency plans and supplies. I am doing what I can by telling my story, it's not the super sad ‘I lost everything story’ but at least it's something.