Disaster brings out the best in people

UTTER DEVASTATION Sunset falls on a destroyed home outside of Kenwood, CA. It was one of the thousands of homes claimed by the Wine Country fires.

Guest Editorial by Stett Holbrook

If there’s any silver lining to the North Bay fires, it’s the overwhelming outpouring of compassion and volunteerism in support of victims and first responders. In our darkest days, the very best in us came pouring out.

As was made painfully clear, fire does not discriminate. We are all equal before the flames. Given the toxicity of national politics, it was refreshing and deeply moving to see how the North Bay responded to the catastrophe. It felt good to do something, anything, to help.

Food and clothing drives popped up overnight. Restaurants offered free meals to first responders. People opened their homes to displaced strangers. Local kennels took in homeless animals free of charge. Banners thanking fire fighters went up on freeway overpasses.

The question “How are you?” has become much more than a throwaway pleasantry, because, one way or another, we’ve all been affected by the fires, whether or not we lost our homes or loved ones. It could have been any one of us trapped in a burning home with no way out.

The horror of the fire revealed our common humanity. America prides itself on its rugged individualism, but in times of crisis like this, it’s clear we are not strong because we stand alone; we are strongest when we depend on each other. The fire revealed that we are rugged dependents who support each other through the worst of times.

Eventually, the smoke will clear and fire victims will go about the hard work of rebuilding their lives. There will be talk of a return to normalcy, and that’s good. But let’s hold on to the part of our common humanity awakened by the fires.

Stett Holbrook is editor of the North Bay Bohemian, based in Santa Rosa.

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