Published: February 16, 2014
Mayor Steve Bach delivered the 100th gift basket Saturday morning to residents in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood, where the Waldo Canyon fire burned 347 homes in 2012.
Bach and his wife, Suzi, and members of Colorado Springs Together, the nonprofit organization created to assist fire victims, started delivering the baskets more than a year ago to those who had rebuilt their homes or moved back to the neighborhood.
Each basket includes bread, salt and wine, a nod to the holiday movie "It's a Wonderful Life," in which bread was given so that a house may never know hunger, salt so life may always have flavor and wine so that joy and prosperity may reign.
"I always thought this was much ado about something I had no control over," said Cindi Murphy, who received the 100th basket.
She played "Clair de Lune" on the piano for her guests who delivered the basket to her new ranch-style home on Ashton Place, where she has lived now for eight months.
Her previous house, the one she lived in for 25 years, burned when the fire's temperatures reached 1,500 to 2,000 degrees, officials told her. She lost everything except for a couple of her grandmothers' late-1800 Bibles, two Simpich dolls and some family photos. Among the ashes were her cherished 1897 upright and 1937 grand piano.
"I lost part of my soul when those burned," she said.
Since the fire, 250 home-building permits have been issued for the area. Murphy is one of 196 residents who have rebuilt, and like many, she has also opted for simpler landscaping, citing arid vegetation and little desire to use water.
"Things are returning," said Beau McCoy as he and his wife sat on their porch Saturday watching crews rebuild a neighbor's home on Courtney Drive. He pointed toward a field behind their home. "It's all green," he said.
It has been a year to the week since the couple moved into their rebuilt home.
Residents, who say they have a greater connection to their neighbor after the fire, are quick to welcome newcomers.
Animal life has trickled back, too, with deer, foxes and coyotes, said McCoy's wife, Jonni, but rabbits, squirrels, bears and bobcats have yet to return.
Residents have also acclimated to constant construction, which leaves behind dust and scattered building materials such as nails and plywood.
"You just have to do it," said Barry Timmons, a Majestic Drive resident and a board member of the local HOA, as he sprayed dirt off his driveway. He hopes the dozens of builders finish by the end of the year.
Bach said delivering the baskets was an uplifting experience and that rebuilding in the area is an example of how a community can come together to "capture the spirit of the community and keep it."
The sprawling, rocky red mountains that surround the neighborhood serve as a reminder to community.
"There's a beauty about them that's still here," Murphy said.