Updated: Nov 22, 2018
by Gina Shapiro, Santa Barbara, CA
It seems like only yesterday that I woke up to billowing black clouds rolling over the Santa Barbara mountains and the bitter taste of ash lingering on my tongue. It seems like only yesterday that I woke up to the news of a horrific and devastating debris flow, and that after only a few hours, 8 people were already confirmed dead. I would often hear of such disasters on the news, however they always seemed so distant. I never realized the deep pit of despair that carves into you when a disaster strikes close to home. When it destroys the homes of friends, when it scorches the land around your city, when it takes the lives of people you know. I never realized the sickening fear that arrives when the missing are never found, or the hopelessness that grips you when 23 people are confirmed dead.
After the Thomas Fire last winter and Montecito Debris Flow last January, I knew this feeling well.
It has been almost a year since these terrible disasters struck, and I know that now, in the days following the Camp Fire and Woolsey Fire, a similar feeling is shared by many. Currently the Woolsey Fire has claimed 3 lives and destroyed 1500 businesses and homes in the Malibu Area. The Camp Fire has cruelly taken 83 people and decimated the town of Paradise. It terrifies me to hear that over 1200 people are still unaccounted for.
Those affected by the fires are constantly in my thoughts. In California, fires are something we will always have to deal with, however, we should never have to lose innocents to these disasters. It hurts me to think of the pain these communities are going through.
Yet there are lights shining through the darkness of disaster. Many stories have surfaced of brave heroes who risked their lives to aid others. Locals in a rowboat rescued escapees swimming in a reservoir to avoid the flames. A garbage collector picked up a 93 year old woman in her car, saving her from the imminent fire. Allyn Pierce, a nurse and intensive care unit manager, drove into the fire to evacuate people from Adventist Health, a local hospital. Kevin McKay, a school bus driver, drove 22 schoolchildren through the flames. He ripped his shirt and soaked it in water to give each child a piece to lessen smoke inhalation, and eventually drove all of the children to safety.
I hope that as the days go on, miracles will happen, the missing will be found, and more incredible stories of heroes will be heard.
Direct Relief stated that they "will devote at least $2 million in cash to address immediate needs for essential medications, supplies, and health services and also to provide financial assistance available to nonprofit health facilities in the affected areas . . . Direct Relief has so far received $837,000 in cash donations specifically for California wildfire relief and will fund the remainder of the $2 million commitment out of its general operating budget."
Helping Hands Designs is donating 100% of profits from the "California Strong" collection to Direct Relief to aid those affected by the fires. Help Direct Relief reach $2 million in donations - every penny counts.
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