By: Linda Tate, Communications Director, Northwest Osteopathic Medical Foundation
This week was a…WOW…just wow. Many of us in the Pacific Northwest were caught completely off guard by the high winds and horrible fires. In my own family alone, we evacuated three sisters, two of their grandchildren, their six dogs, three cats, and lots of fear and trepidation.
Our little home was bursting at the seams, as we already had five adults, three dogs, 7 cats, and 12 chickens among three families living on the property. Fortunately, we were able to absorb the entire family…and then the news hit. Level 2, get packed (repacked for them), and get ready to GO NOW.
What do you pack when your space is limited? I learned very quickly that very little matters to me. My father’s WWII Navy uniform. His flag. His Bible. My children’s handprints from kindergarten. My mother’s paintings. The cake topper from my wedding to David. My mother’s sewing machine and my fabric so I could continue to make masks wherever we ended up.
Nothing else mattered. My dogs, my cats, and my humans. That’s it. If I lost everything else, I could rebuild, but I could not replace that which isn’t replaceable.
Above our tree line
The anxiety at a Level two (Get ready to GO NOW) has been crushing. We’ve had three medical emergencies, two of which required an ambulance. The stress, along with the hazardous air, (over 500 at our house) has proven to be a formidable opponent.
And yet, our house is full of laughter, singing, baking, cooking, sewing, and love. So much love. We are all together. A blessing that isn’t wasted on us. So many are missing relatives, pets, or have lost their homes altogether. It’s been horrific to witness.
As the skies turned red and the day time light turned black as night, we sat together, in shock, waiting for the GO NOW order. Ash fell silently in the air as the town closest to us received their orders. Horse trailer after RV after truck calmly drove past our home. “Where will they go” we wondered…silently we were all wondering…”Where will WE go“?
I reached out on social media, looking for a potential placement for all of us, and was not disappointed. Three families stepped up within minutes of my post. “Come to us…all of you“. Entire houses were offered up. Again, we were so blessed, but understandably we did not want to be separated.
Word came that a firefighter had spied a Cougar three miles from our home. The fires were driving the woodland creatures into our space. To be expected, for sure. My neighbor and I texted tips back and forth. Looters were in the area. We took turns watching each other’s backs.
The house had a fire map on one computer that we would all hover over as it updated. The fires were close. First 15 miles…then 10…then 8…and then, the wind stopped. The humidity started to rise. You could feel dew on your skin. Please, please let it be true…we were seeing an end to the disaster.
Even though we still sit at a Level 2 at this writing, with our lives safely packed in bins and bags tucked away in our vehicles, we feel so grateful. Grateful to live in a place where volunteers go up into the Molalla foothills to fight a fire threatening my sister’s houses. Thankful for fairgrounds that opened their doors to horses, cattle, goats, pigs, and more. Thankful for individuals who were making sandwiches and cookies for the fire crews and those who were displaced. Thankful for regular updates by local authorities. Thankful for those who were blood and those who weren’t (yet are), for their constant calls, emails, text messages, offers of support, housing, love, and food.
Photo credit: Portland Tribune
We were never alone. It’s times like these that you realize who your people are. Your tribe. Carefully constructed over the years, held close to your heart, even when far apart, stepping out of the shadows the minute trouble knocks on your door. We will never forget your kindness. Thank you.
The Foundation would like to take this opportunity to thank the amazing firefighters who are still out there, giving it their all. Your bravery and commitment go beyond the word “heroes“. There is no word known to man to describe your dedication and selflessness. We will never forget your sacrifices. Many of you lost your own homes and were worried about your own family’s safety, yet you suited up and showed up, and your community noticed.
Firefighters rush in when the rest of us are rushing out. It takes a special brand of courage to do such a thing. To override the fight or flight reaction and choose NOT to save yourself so that others may be saved is a skill set that I don’t have. I’m terrified of fire. To watch these men and women fearlessly tackle that which literally makes me freeze in my tracks is beyond admirable.
We at the Foundation hope this email finds you and yours safe and with those who you love, and who love you. Until next time, take good care of yourselves and each other…
Update: As this week closes out, our home is now a Level 1 (green). We’ve unpacked and are still waiting for my sister’s home on the mountain to drop to an acceptable level. They still sit at a level 3, GO NOW. While we wait for word, there’s one thing we know for sure. The firefighters are up there. They are giving it everything they have, and we are grateful, regardless of the outcome.