Postcards From Phoenix
Today is the one year anniversary of the fire…I wrote this on 09/16/20
The first thing you have to get past is the illusion that it will never happen to you, because it’s happening to you right now.
It strikes you as some sort of cosmic error that will surely be fixed before there is significant damage to what has always been.
We had to leave quickly…the angry clouds of black smoke looked as if they would soon overtake us and the sound of propane tanks exploding made it sound like war.
We fled north… I needed to get my mom and her cat to shelter…a friends house would be safe.
Except it wasn’t.
A wall of fire on the mountain was descending on that home…we had to go elsewhere.
My aunts house was safe, I left them there.
I would stay with my godson and his family…they were far enough away from the fires.
They evacuated that night.
I stayed at their home…an old man can only run so far for so long.
They are home now, as am I…I’m waiting until we have potable water to bring mom home.
Last night was the first night I slept without the scanner app playing on my phone .
The roads into Phoenix proper are blockaded down the street from my house…those who live (or lived) in that area are allowed to walk in briefly and walk out with whatever possessions they can carry.
At times it looks like those videos you see of refugees fleeing some Third World country… last night I saw a mom walking out hauling a garbage bag containing what remains of her world with her little boy trailing behind pulling a red wagon with a giant scorched teddy bear riding in it.
The streets are lined with cars all over the county as if folks were attending a giant wedding at someones house or a huge yard sale…in reality they are sleeping in their cars, often with their pets.
The initial estimate was that 600 homes burned…now that number is 2400.
They didn’t count the mobile homes at first…a subtle way of saying that folks who live in trailer parks don’t really count.
Jesus wept, then Jesus got busy.
I left my house with my meds and an oil stock…a small cylinder of oil used to anoint people for prayer.
I ran out of oil the first day…I was refueled by a retired Catholic priest.
We are caring for each other, protecting each other, supporting each other.
The Spirit hovers over the chaos restoring life one person, one moment, at a time.
Society has been reordered here…firefighters, law enforcement, and first responders are heroes again.
The Gospel is not a doctrine right now… it’s a spoken prayer, a shift as a volunteer, an unmasked hug, a can of cat or dog food, an ice chest full of water and Red Bull for those standing watch.
It’s people “paying forward” seven deep at the coffee stand and restaurant owners picking up tickets for newly homeless customers.
It’s people having visions of what will be rebuilt even before we know what has been lost.
It’s buckets of sunflowers placed on the on the road that is the only entrance to the town to remind us that the light will shine again.
Truly, it will….it is right behind the smoke.
It always is.
Make your own application…
Truly, an extension of the Incarnation. +Michael Ramsey would be pleased…
Stay strong, my friend.
Thank you, Duane…I’m seeing lots of extensions around me…
reading this reminds me of a well that was reduced to a trickle pouring forth a new, sweet flow of life-giving water. I’m not referring to your community, though that may be true, but to you, my friend. Your words have taken on a distinct seasoning that comes through fire, a wisdom borne from trial, a grace reckoned from tragedy. Blessings, buddy.
Thank you, fil…blessings to you and your bride as well…you have been examples of grace lived out to me…
This is sad, hopeful and beautiful. Blessings to you, Michael.
Thank you, CK…
Overwhelming to read this…. I realize how fortinate we were when the fire swept down the hills surrounding our river valley. No wind made all the difference. The firefighters positioned sprinklers all around the house here – we have a good well. Somehow they confined the fire to the hills and not one single house was lost the whole 30 miles…. we had some displaced cougars to deal with, but no human casualties….
Prayer continues for all …. Some stories coming to us are almost beyond bearable even to hear told
Thank You, God for taking care of Michael and family
The wind made the difference…we had a “historic” wind event in the days leading up to the fire.
such a moving article!! I am praying and have been praying that those people we hug today out of compassion, we will hug a year from now in celebration for getting thru this horrific time. I pray that those who are heroes today, remain heroes throughout the rest of our lives…Keep up the good wishes and prayers…we are with you.
Thank you Michael!
Hearts are breaking and rejoicing at the same time!
Thank you Lord for your presence in this valley and your protection!
Thank you Lord for giving Michael strength and endurance, and please keep him healthy and going!
Thank you, cathy…that’s a good prayer…
Thank you, Elena…good to see you here!
Reading your description of the citizens’ loving actions toward one another brings a wellspring of hope. It reminded me of after 9/11, how our whole country came together. Many are speaking of war. I pray that it doesn’t take a 9/11 or terrible natural disasters like this to bring back that love in all the communities in our country. Very happy for your deliverance, my friend.
“ Jesus wept, then Jesus got busy.”
Michael, this is one of the best commentaries on God I’ve ever read.
I love that you and your community are stepping up and caring for each other.
Thank you, G-Man…the fires of covid and division have broken those bonds…and I’m hoping that Jesus gets busy again…
I recall one night when the fire was threatening this valley….
The wind had come up strong and my daughter had gone downriver to recorf the looming disaster
Now don’t laugh
I went out and started singing that old song, ” the winds and the waves obey My will. Peace be still. Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea or demons or men……. ”
The wind stopped and it became dead calm – all the rest of the night!
Several years back, I led a team from my church to Mississippi to help the victims of Katrina. I recall walking down one street where debris and building material stretched above my head. I gelt like I was walking in a bunker in a war zone. I wept uncontrollably. After the Phoenix and Talent fire, when we were allowed into the area, I drove there both towns and wept again. From My home and on the television, we watched the flames. But it was an entirely different emotion actually seeing the devastation. Several individuals in our church lost their homes and belongings. I drive thru now a year after the fire and see evidence of rebuilding—it’s slow—but it makes me smile