A Red Sun
Growing up in places that weren't near any large patches of trees or wildlife, I had never personally experienced a controlled burn, let alone an actual wildfire. Yet during my time at boarding school, I found myself stuck right in the middle of California’s 2017 Thomas fire.
At a school living in its own little bubble atop a Mesa, the Thomas Fire, though only physically 19 miles away, felt like it was news from the other side of the world. So, when the fire quickly burned its way through the distance and started lapping at our fields, it was terrifying and surreal. For days the sun was neon red, the whole sky looked like it was bleeding, and the air made my throat burn and eyes water. We were immediately evacuated starting our Winter breaks weeks early, about 300 of our campus family was displaced until further notice.
As all of us eagerly checked for the updates from our headmaster, nobody knew what to do or what to expect. I didn’t know when or if the fire would stop, and how much more destruction it would cause. I had never felt so helpless or confused; I couldn’t even imagine what it would feel like to the people whose families’ lives and homes were left to the fire’s disposition.
Our campus was extremely fortunate to not have lost anyone to the Thomas Fire, and though it was a frighteningly humanising experience, it ultimately created a depth in gratitude for everything we had that Winter. I learnt to appreciate the things I had and the privilege of having secure shelter, the ability to leave when situations worsened, and the luxury of feeling safe and happy most of the time. We then did our best to help as many members as possible of the community in any way we could by volunteering, fundraising, and donating items.
In hindsight, though understandable how lost and unsure I was, I wish I could’ve provided more emotional support to those that must’ve felt like they were losing their whole lives. In the future, I wish to be an even more responsive and helpful member of the community as I believe coming together is the only way to get through hardship.
Author Bio: I am a third culture kid currently at the University of Sydney studying to be a Financier/Computer Scientist/Dentist. Trying to figure things out just one picnic in the park a day! Instagram: carolineson_