Heroes Among Us
● By Kimberly Boney
By Kimberly Bonéy and Emily J. Miranda
Photo courtesy of Erica Shepard
GRATEFUL. RELIEVED. APPRECIATIVE. INSPIRED. Those words roll off the tongue with ease in the wake of the devastating Carr Fire that tried, with all its might, to destroy our city. We are infinitely grateful for all of the heroism, hospitality, kindness, compassion and outreach we’ve witnessed in this community during a time of such devastation and loss. We are relieved that the lives of our family members and friends were spared, and that there are homes that stand, solitary yet strong, when many others perished in the fire. We are inspired by the immense kindness and sense of community that shines abundantly in this little jewel we call home.
Despite the trauma, the pain, the emptiness and the utter helplessness we experienced, we are thankful. We are especially thankful for the first responders, who faced the danger head on. While they ushered residents safely away from the fire, these superheroes without capes rushed back into it. When they weren’t fighting the burning monster, they were recharging for the next battle. As tired, drained and frustrated as we imagine they were, they still found it in themselves to smile, engage us all in conversation, acknowledge the devastating losses many of us felt in the wake of the fire, shed tears with us, and put our pieces back together with a hug. What does someone have to be made of to do such a thing? If we had to guess, we’d say it’s equal parts love, courage, selflessness, determination and a deeply rooted desire to protect.
To all the nearby and state officials who stepped up at a moment’s notice: your dedication to this community and its safety was a blessing to witness and a sincere comfort to all of us. To know we are in secure, caring, capable hands when crisis hits is a true encouragement. Those who had lived through such horrific circumstances came to the North State to help us navigate the rugged road ahead, offering wisdom, guidance and support along the way. That’s the true definition of a loyal friend.
When the dust settled, many local, state and national organizations did their part to restore the affected areas into safe, returnable environments. They repaired downed power lines and cables, risking their own safety to help displaced people to be able to return to their homes. They secured evacuated and fire-ravaged neighborhoods left vulnerable to crime. Thank you for helping us to regain a sense of normalcy after such chaos.
Local and national journalists, photographers and videographers alike worked around the clock, often in the direct line of fire, to help the world see what was happening here. We salute you. Thank you for all you do to keep us safe and well-informed, for being our eyes and our ears and for your dedication to helping families gain clarity and closure when they needed it most.
As a fire raged within striking distance of Mercy Medical Center Redding, area doctors, nurses and hundreds of hospital staff at several facilities worked to prepare for a possible evacuation. They took every measure to keep patients calm, comfortable and well cared for. Through it all, they helped to heal the sick and injured, often ignoring their own fear to protect others.
The families of the first responders aren’t on the front lines, but they are heroes just the same. They sacrifice precious time with their loved ones to preserve life and property. Summer vacations, birthdays and family functions are only part of what they give up to keep us all safe from harm. They lose sleep wondering if their heroes made it safely through their shifts. They watch for updates on the fire, they mobilize their friends and family, and find ways to extend a helping hand to those who need it, even through the insurmountable worry they feel for the safety of their loved ones.
Local volunteers gave of their time to cross into danger zones to provide assistance, supplies and restoration to families who were desperately struggling to cope with loss. How can we ever thank you for giving of yourself in the way you did?
Not every hero in this story ran toward the burning monster to save us. Some are everyday citizens who fought back by loving those in need fiercely. They scoured their own homes for things they knew their friends, neighbors and complete strangers would need more. They shopped for clothing, shoes and supplies for people they would never meet. They donated money to those whose homes were destroyed. They cooked meals for weary evacuees who just needed a bit of normalcy. They offered to wash loads of laundry for displaced friends. They made calls to help those who needed shelter find a home away from home. They opened their homes to friends and strangers alike. They offered to babysit children and pets as people struggled to put their lives back in order. They stuffed backpacks full of school supplies. Some of them rode into soon-to-be-evacuated areas in empty trucks and trailers to provide safe passage for displaced pets and vulnerable wildlife. Others loaded trucks and trailers filled with clothing, supplies, love and well wishes from friends we’ve never met in counties across the state.
Some heroes simply showed up to work on days when everyone else couldn’t be there. They secured their families safely away from the fire, clocked in, and made it their business to show love to each and every person who walked through the door. Knowing that all of us were feeling the levity of the situation, these brave souls went above and beyond to show genuine care and concern for everyone they met. They shared hugs, tears, and heartfelt words with us – ones we will never forget.
A myriad of local businesses, schools and churches opened their doors to welcome those displaced with a free hot meal, a discounted or gratis service, financial support and shelter when people were left without a home to go to. The have committed to providing ongoing care for those who need it. What a blessing to have so many step up to show love to this community.
Sometimes it’s easy to lose faith in humanity. And then, there are those hard moments that encourage us all to dig deeper, push harder and love more. It’s in those moments that we realize just what we are made of. Love, kindness, compassion and generosity bloom in the darkest moments.
Amidst the rubble left in the fire’s wake, there is hope. Not a small sliver or a tiny ray, but a full spectrum of color that not only appeared after the worst of the fire, but in the midst of it.
The Carr Fire threatened to destroy this beautiful area and the peace within it. As angry and powerful as it was, it simply didn’t have the strength. It was no match for all of the heroes in uniforms and plain clothes who looked that monster in the eye and said, “Not today.”