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Essay about the fire: Tragedy of Waldo fire slowly fades, leaving the good in people

By: Megan Wood, megan.wood@gazette.com
July 22, 2013 Updated: July 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm
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photo - Gazette intern Megan Wood lost her home in the Waldo Canyon Fire last year. Her parents are rebuilding on the same lot and will soon be moving into their new home..(Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)
Gazette intern Megan Wood lost her home in the Waldo Canyon Fire last year. Her parents are rebuilding on the same lot and will soon be moving into their new home..(Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette) 

It had been nearly a year, making it eerily parallel. That smoke plume over Black Forest ignited the unwelcome memories of last summer.

Visions of the Waldo Canyon fire smoke came back to me. The dark intermingled with the bright. The colors were unreal. An orange glow from the sun shot through the black smoke, and it rested on a backdrop of brilliant blue and white clouds.

I didn't feel fear at first, as I watched the flames coming closer to my neighborhood. It was a truly awe-inspiring, once-in-a-lifetime, incredibly beautiful and fierce force of nature tumbling through the trees. It was an image I have realized I can never quite explain to someone who didn't live it - down to the smell of the smoke, the crackle of the flames, the orange glow the inferno cast down on Mountain Shadows.

But then the smoke swirled and pushed and raged, and the fire grew. It licked every tree, dripping with greediness. I realized the danger. That is when I felt fear.

So, I knew all too well what the Black Forest evacuees were going through in early June this year. I lived through the fear, shock and awe in June of last year. A natural disaster, so powerfully destructive it leaves you feeling completely helpless - a feeling that you can't shake for a while.

But a tragedy has this way of melting away the bad and leaving the good in people. It's weird in that way, how something can be so cruelly unforgiving and wonderfully forgiving at the same time.

It was incredibly difficult to see it all happen so close to home all over again. And when I went into the newsroom in June to start my internship at The Gazette, I was overwhelmed.

The television stations were broadcasting it, all the news stories revolved around it, everyone bustled around talking about it. That was the news at the moment and it hit home, hard. It was hard to feel all of those emotions again, to hear the distraught stories of burnt homes and lost lives. Everyone in the newsroom was working tirelessly, making sure the public knew exactly what was happening and sharing the stories of those affected.

Because of a generously understanding managing editor, I was able to take a step away from fire reporting.

"It's good to have humanity in this profession," she told me. And that was so rare and good to hear, because this was one story that I didn't think I could objectively write.

It's been a little over a year since my childhood home of 18 years burned down in the Waldo Canyon fire.

To the people who lost their homes in the Black Forest fire, I give you so much of my empathy and I promise it gets better. I've seen my community build an imperishable strength that will support you undeniably. I've seen firefighters spend hours digging through the ashes of my home, shoveling, trying to find us anything slightly recognizable to bring us comfort.

I've seen countless acts of charity, support and simple kindness. I've seen hope. And it takes a little bit of time to find it, but I promise it's there.

I hope that those affected by the Black Forest fire can see the hope in Mountain Shadows. And through that hope, see that it gets better.

I think Mountain Shadows is just as beautiful as it was, only in a different way than before. The sun still sets gloriously over those foothills, casting rays into the freshly built homes below. The light just hits the houses a little differently now, through new windows and charred trees.

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