one year ago today was the day AFTER the Bastrop Wildfires started. and that was the day that changed my life forever. i had been working at the Bastrop store for almost 2 years, and felt like an outsider. having been called “that yankee from Georgetown” and “that mean girl from Austin” i never felt like i was part of that community and honestly fought it every step of the way.
and then the fires consumed the town where my customers lived, worked, and played. my customers were devastated. my company offered half off accessories and brought in charging stations. other employees from other stores came and worked at shelters and churches to hand out items to those who had lost everything. my customers came in to cancel service and set up new contact information. they were dirty, smoky, sleep-deprived, and tear stained. and i hugged them. that was all i could do.
we had been evacuated, but our house was fine. but all of a sudden, there was a common bond. i was involved. i organized food, water and clothing donations from other stores and all of my friends from everywhere that i could. the manager at one of the restaurants got a big box of clothes from me, but told me that the one thing that was needed was undershirts, underwear, and socks for the firefighters. they went out and sweated and fought and came back in and peeled off their smoke and soot ridden, wet clothes and had to throw them away because they couldn’t be worn again. in addition to her asking me to gather those items, she told me that she was doing free breakfast for all the firefighters. even the ones that had drive and flown in from across the country to help out. she was feeding HUNDREDS of them. the least we could do was buy them socks. and i damn near blew an entire paycheck on men’s underwear. i got pretty funny looks at the checkout.
in the days and weeks that followed, we did what we could. we held our breaths and hoped they would put the fires out and that they wouldn’t spread any more. we worried and prayed about friends and coworker’s houses that either burned down, or were in the neighborhoods that were hit hard to see if they still had houses.
and we waited. and we hugged. and we consoled. and we got yelled at. because some people just hadn’t slept and the only thing they could control was the sound of their voice. all they had left was their voice. and we hugged those people even harder.
i learned that even though i wasn’t a local, i was now part of something. something bigger than me and i liked it. i had fought it so hard, but i had to just let it envelop and wash over me. i made friends for life in those months. and for that i am forever thankful and grateful.
i learned how to let go of my pride and not always feed my desire to be right. i learned to listen, even when it seemed like the sound was so furious that it would consume me. i learned to stop and be even more grateful than i was.
a friend that i made from the fires said today that not only did she lose everything, but she FOUND so much more. she found old friends and new ones who came back into her life whether to send words of encouragement, or even money. and that today was her anniversary of FINDING. Cyndi, i agree 100 percent and couldn’t have said it any better.
so in an odd way i owe a debt of gratitude to Mother Nature. by her destruction, she was able to create something much more beautiful.