Christian lives in Amarillo, TX. She's also one of my wife’s best friends. For the past couple weeks, the area’s been just crushed by wildfires. Last week, she and her husband were forced to evacuate their home with flames devouring their neighborhood. Their story will be shared here in four installments over the next four days. It's a lens through which to view a bigger tragedy ... and through which to find something unbelievable in such a time as this: Joy.
Surviving Wildfires | Part 4 of 4
by Christian Bressler, as told to Brandon Sneed
I could have kissed the ground. The house was there. It was covered in ash. Everything was, including the grass, which was why I didn’t actually kiss it. And the house reeked of smoke, but it was undamaged. We figured that the wind somehow blew ash even inside, because it covers computers, dressers, tables, the floor. But they were still there to be covered.
We walked out into the backyard. The fire had stopped halfway through the yard. A few feet further, it catches the house, and the house is gone.
We didn’t stay there long. Once we saw it was safe, we returned to my grandparents. I teared up as we pulled up the driveway, passing the charred ground so close to their house. We walked around for awhile, just taking it in. Melted signs, scorched doors, burned timbers in back yards … it got so close.
My grandparents’ neighbors had, like everyone else, been forced out by police. Once they left, though, they snuck back in to save their home. If they hadn’t, the house would be gone. All night, they fought the fire alongside firemen.
As we looked around, we saw hotspots, still smoking. Brady and Grandpa got buckets of water and hoses and soaked them.
Later, we returned to our house. We opened the windows and turned on our Scentsy warmers, trying to get the smell out. We sat, relieved but somehow not calm. We’d survived, but dozens of homes had not.
Once the gates were finally opened to the community, we went back to Brady’s parents and got our dogs then came back home. We thought about driving through the northern area, to see what had been lost, but decided not to, wanting to respect the devastated. When we got home, I crashed, and I was still tired two days later. The emotions had caught up to me, and I was drained.
Eighty homes burned down, plus the dog kennel.
Being so close to the tragedy really put into perspective what we could have lost. Several families actually did lose everything. We’re going to do everything we can for them, but we can only do so much.
This tragedy brought things into sharp focus. We saw the beauty of care and comfort, with churches all over letting people stay with nowhere else to go, and people and businesses donating loads of food.
I know that some of you reading this story are probably far away from us, but still, I want to ask that you send your thoughts and prayers to help these families. Everything they’ve worked for has, literally, gone up in smoke.
There are many like me and Brady. We left Lake Tanglewood, left our homes for refuge for the night and returned later hoping to find what we did. Instead, though, many others found smoldering rubble.
The least I can do, as one of the lucky ones, is open up my heart for these families. I can give what I know my community would give us if we had a different outcome.
I have a whole new appreciation for life, for people. The firemen. The people keeping order in the chaos. Everyone who helped this from getting even worse than it was. And for the little things, like text messages and phone calls from friends who care, and hugs from my husband, keeping me calm.
I wish it could have gone differently. I wish it wouldn’t have happened at all. But still, I see freshly how we are truly blessed.
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This is part of a serial story. For all blog entries telling this story, click here.