Saturday, June 30, 2012

Colorado Burns

It’s been about a month now that my family and I have followed the many fires burning through our wonderful state.

As a second generation Colorado native, I know and expect wildfires to hit.  It’s a part of our dry summers with so much fuel in our high country to feed the risk of flames catching and spreading quickly through our beautiful wilderness. But this year . . .

This year has been unlike anything I can ever recall in my lifetime.  So many fires so early in the season.  Day after day there seems to be reports of a new one and in those reports come the big ones, the dangerous ones, the deadly ones.

There are days that are so smoky we can barely see our beautiful mountains.  Mornings that smell as if someone is burning a campfire in your own backyard from the moment you step out the door.  It’s been heartbreaking to watch our state suffer through so much.  Hard to think of how much pain and loss so many Coloradans have experienced in such a short amount of time.

And yet, it wasn’t until a week ago, when the Waldo Canyon Fire first found life, that the worst of my worries began to set in.  That I was struck with the reality that my son’s recent move back to Colorado Springs had placed him in the path of where the threatening flames were hovering.

And then Tuesday came and my worst worries came true as hell erupted over the city.

I was outside on our back patio with my husband, watching the dark smoke plume from the newest fire burning in Boulder, growing bigger and bigger over the tree tops, when my youngest son stuck his head out the door and called me in to watch the latest information on the Waldo Canyon Fire flashing across the television screen.

And there it was . . . what I had feared  . . . Colorado Springs was on fire.  Tens of thousands of residents were being evacuated.  The city was covered in smoke and ash.  And my oldest son was there, in the middle of all of that.

The phone calls began then.  Between myself and my oldest son.  Between him and his father, his younger brothers.

It was a terrifying experience that is hard to explain.  I have never been in that situation before.  Watching horror flashing live on my television screen with the knowledge that someone I love is a part of all that is happening.  Is there in what I can only know from the safety of my family room.

My son was so close and yet, at that moment, felt so very far away.

I cursed having grown up sons then.  Adults I could no longer tell what to do.  I wanted so bad for him to come home to where I could keep him safe, know he wouldn’t be in danger from the flames glowing in the night sky throughout the city.

I watched the newest evacuations as they came, one after another, fear growing as they inched closer and closer to where my son lived.  As the fire stretched to within a little over ten miles from him.

But I had to respect, not only that he was an adult perfectly capable of making decisions for himself outside of his mother’s worry, but that his need to stay in Colorado Springs was important to him because of the life he had, the memories he carried.  Because of a large part of his life that isn’t a part of his first family but instead a part of his adoptive family.  Part of what will always be who he is because adoption changed the place he considers home.

To my oldest son, that home will always be Colorado Springs.  Reunion, adopting him back, didn’t change that.  Living down here, with us, on his own, for four years, didn’t change that.  At just three days old he was taken “home” to the place where he ran around the streets on his bike.  Explored the mountains and forests at his back door.  Went to school, worked his first job, had his first apartment.

Yes, there is a selfish part of me that wishes things were different.  That wants his home to be the same as mine, his dads, his siblings.  But that can never be.  And I would never deny what is home to him because doing so would be denying a part of who he is, of what makes him the wonderful man he has become.

And doing so would mean not respecting and understanding why he needed to stay in Colorado Springs on the night the fires released their terror.  Why he had to be there, be close to what was happening to his home, to the place where his heart will always be.

Through the night and into the early morning hours, our connection was through the telephone.  For hours we talked, my son reassuring his family he was okay while we were there, in a small way, helping him to not feel so alone as he found himself surrounded by such an unimaginable horror.

And as a new morning dawned, and he remained safe, our fear turned to sorrow and heartache for all those who had lost so much.  For the pain my son was suffering at seeing his town . . . his home . . . destroyed in so many ways.

It’s a different life now there in the Springs.  While the news slowly moves away from the story of the fire that hit that terrible night, Colorado Springs is still living the reality of it.  They can’t turn off their television, wait for a new and breaking story to take over.  They know what they live.  And what they live is the devastation of so many homes lost.  Of at least two deaths and the ever constant reminder, as they look west, of just what happened on a hell-filled night they will never forget.

So, for my oldest son, for every resident of Colorado Springs, I ask that we not forget, that we remember, as our lives continue on as usual, there are so many who will live with a terrible loss for so many days, weeks, months and even years to come.

I ask that it not matter what we do or do not agree on, that in this time, differing opinions and views mean nothing when it comes to keeping so many in our thoughts and prayers.  That for just a moment we forget about everything except those who are hurting and in need.  Who are homeless, mourning the death of loved ones, witnessing their city damaged in ways they could never imagine.  That we pray for the best for them and for a recovery that will take time, care and lots of love to be reached. 

That we pray for a community facing one of the darkest times of their history.  A community that will forever be changed by the fury of a fire that took away so much from so many in one dark night of hell.


  1. ((((Cassi)))) Fire is really frightening!! I am sorry you are all going through this and that the people in Colorado Springs and all the places who are burning are suffering through this. I will keep them in my prayers. It is terrifying to watch these flames, lose everything and not know who has been killed.

    The aftermath is always the worst part - living with the memories of what happened and the reality that life is changed. Natural disasters are traumatic. I willl also pray for those affected that the rebuild of their homes and lives will be with some hope.

    Much love to all of you and to everyone affected by fires in the region.

  2. Oh, I am so sorry your family is caught in the fires. A good friend of mine lives in Colorado Springs and we email a couple of times a day. So far her home is safe, but there is always worry about tomorrow.

    Global warming unleashes its fury.

  3. I'm so sorry your family is going through this. Scary, scary stuff! I've been watching and reading the reports. It made me go through all the things I would grab first if I was forced to leave my home. I wouldn't be able to take enough no matter how I plan. My thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.

  4. Cassi,
    I am so sorry you and your family are going through this. I have been following it on the news. It's all very scary. I do want to thank you though for allowing your first son to decide what he considers to be his hometown even though you have adopted him back. I appreciate the way you let him decide what he thinks and how he feels about the adopted part of his life.

  5. Thinking of you, your son, and all those affected by these devastating fires. ((Cassi))