This morning I am forced to come to terms with the reality of how media affects our concept of disasters. As the fires approached my community of Oakmont, California in the early hours of Monday morning, October 9, 2017, all eyes were on Santa Rosa, California. For those of us who lived through it, we will be struggling for some time into the future, emotionally, financially, spiritually and physically. But in the world of media, the next big event will soon replace ours, just like we replaced the shooting in Las Vegas, just like the shooting in Las Vegas replaced Hurricane Maria, just like Hurricane Maria replaced Hurricane Jose, just like Hurricane Jose replaced Hurricane Irma, just like Hurricane Irma replaced Hurricane Harvey.
But for all of us who lived through all of these events, the struggle does not end when the cameras move on to the next headline event. In our lives, the event reaches out in all directions like an intricate spider web. For every life that was lost, there are multitudes of friends and family who are still deeply touched and affected by that loss. For every physical structure that was destroyed there are multitudes of people who are still affected by the loss of that physical structure, perhaps as a home, a job, a memory or a vital piece of the economy of the entire community.
So as the rest of the world watches those of us who still have homes, return to our homes, please remember that everything has changed for us too, because of the enormity of what has just happened to us. Yes, some of us can celebrate the fact that we are still alive! Yes, some of us can celebrate the fact that we still have a house to come home to. But the smoke has not yet cleared and we are not returning to the same lives we left behind in the wee hours of that Monday morning. And for those of us who lived through this unprecedented event, the lives of those who perished and the heroic deeds of those who risked their lives to save ours are forever embedded in our hearts in a way that cannot be portrayed through a television camera lens. In the foreseeable future, we will see them and remember them every morning when we wake and every evening when we go to sleep.