A first-person account of the evacuation from West Glenwood | PostIndependent.com

A first-person account of the evacuation from West Glenwood

The man was distraught, ashes were smeared on the side of his face. His house was in west Glenwood, right at Mitchell Creek Road. The man’s cat was howling in the front seat of his pick-up. His wife was safe in the humidity of Indiana, visiting relatives.

The man said he couldn’t find the cat kennel, so he just tossed the panicked animal in the truck.

It was chaos, the man went on to describe. Neighbors were screaming, a sheriff’s deputy’s loud speaker was blaring – “Get out now!”

For this man and others who have lived in the area since 1994, the scene was, of course, eerily reminiscent of Storm King on July 6, 1994.

The man was shaking, his voice cracked with fear. Fear of the unknown. He worried about his house and all the belongings he couldn’t scoop up and throw into the tiny truck bed.

The sky was dark, with ominous tones of red, orange and gray – the man said he’s never seen hell – but this is what it must look like.

Ashes filled the air, floating around like one of those small Christmas globes with the snow scene. The man jumped in his truck, and drive around west Glenwood. Stopping at the mall, he waited and watched – helplessly. Wishing he’d grabbed more belongings. He pounded the steering wheel in frustration. Helpless, distraught, thirsty . a feeling that he couldn’t describe. His stomach was in knots, his eyes burned. The man was ordered to leave the area.

Traffic was clogged as the man turned onto the interstate. He refused to look in his rear-view mirror, not wanting to see the thick smoke. If he didn’t look, maybe it would go away.

Traffic moved slowly, making his stomach churn more.

So much anxiety. The unknown was tormenting, torturous. Was his home in danger? Was his home gone? Why didn’t he grab more things? He pounded the steering wheel again. His companion howled his displeasure and the man turned his attention to his buddy. He comforted the feline, telling him it would be OK. That’s what people do when tragedy comes knocking. The man had no idea that everything would be OK. But his buddy seemed to believe him, and that’s all that mattered.

The man selfishly wished his wife was with him, to comfort him, but he was happy that she wouldn’t have to go through the horrifying scene that he was witnessing. It would become known as the fire of June 8, 2002. Who knows what name would be attached to it.

The man couldn’t believe his eyes. Unbelievable was all he could think.

The man is me. The house, that I assume is gone, belongs to me and my wife.

I have no words to describe what I’m feeling. I decided in this helpless state that putting my fingers to the keyboard would help ease my mind. I guess it did, I don’t know. I’m numb.

I miss my wife and worry about my buddy. But I know they are safe. I’m not alone, others have lost much. In the next few days, we will see how devastating and how much destruction occurred.

I miss my wife. Our home is probably gone. But like in all aspects of life, even when the skies are dark with smoke, we must look for the silver lining.

I will just have to look a little harder for this one.

Dale Shrull is the editor of the Citizen Telegram in Rifle. He is a New Castle native. In 1981, he and his family lost their home to a fire.

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