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Meck My Day

Tamie Meck

Soft music filtered through the air as people who had taken refuge at the American Red Cross relocation center at Spring Valley ate dinner Sunday evening.

“Dinner music, as it were,” said musician Bill Parish of Carbondale. He and classical guitarist Jerry Gasau performed pop and classical selections over the low hum of conversation and the quiet clatter of meals being served by Red Cross volunteers.

Parish and Gasau were the first of many musicians who will perform for the refugees.

Two soldiers with the National Guard’s 220th Detachment from Monte Vista, just off of active duty from the 82nd Airborne Division, spent the heat of Monday afternoon patrolling the northbound access point to Midland Avenue. Their job, said the 24- and 19-year-old soldiers, whom I’ll refer to as “24” and “19,” was to block access to Midland Avenue to all but official personnel and residents who need to collect some of their personal belongings. As long as they have their “blue pass,” said 24, they are allowed access.

A truck towing a fifth wheel pulled out from Midland Avenue. The driver offered the soldiers each an ice-cold Coke. As they pulled out, 14-year-olds Nick Vanderhoof and Marcus Bosco pulled up on their bicycles and offered the two soldiers each a bottle of cold water.

“Can we look at your equipment?” asked Vanderhoof.

“Sure,” said 19.

The two peered into the Army green Humvee.

“Cool,” said Bosco.

“Cool,” said Vanderhoof.

“We decided giving them water for a look in their Hummer would be worth it,” said Vanderhoof before the two took off pedaling toward town.

At the Glenwood Springs High School Red Cross information center, the Salmen brothers, Chas and Marco, along with fellow teenagers Robert DuBois and Zak Brewer, handed out Popsicles to people in the parking lot Sunday afternoon. Most of the people at the center had been evacuated from their homes and were waiting to hear on the status of their property.

But the teenagers didn’t much care if the Popsicles went to the newly homeless or not. They just wanted to help out, they said cheerfully as they headed to town.

Monday morning, a call came into the news room from a gentleman who wanted to offer one of the displaced families here at the Post Independent a place to stay. He followed his phone call up with a personal visit to emphasize his good intentions.

There are, no doubt, countless small acts of charity happening this week in Glenwood Springs, and in all of the communities around Colorado whose resources are suddenly focused on putting out fires. Most go relatively unnoticed.

I think 19 summed it all up by saying “This is great here.”

“A lot of times you don’t get this type of camaraderie from a community,” said 24. Even when he and 19 have stood firm between people and their homes, they’ve been treated with respect and friendliness.

“These are the times that try men’s souls,” wrote Thomas Paine. He was, of course, referring to tyranny and the American Revolution. But those words apply to just about any situation where peoples’ freedom, possessions and lives are at stake.

For most of us, this fire has been just one big huge, frightening, and in some cases costly inconvenience. Most of us didn’t lose our homes or businesses to fire. Most of us didn’t have to make a split-second decision about what possessions we simply don’t want to live without. Most of us didn’t rush away from our homes wondering if they’d still be standing when we returned.

Soldiers 24 and 19 said they didn’t know when they’d pack up and return to Monte Vista to await new orders. But for now, they seem to be comfortable helping out the folks in this stunned community.

After the fire broke out Saturday, I drove west on Interstate 70 to help cover the story. I ended up sitting in the Tibbets pull-out east of New Castle, unable to get back to Glenwood Springs, while I learned that the fire was heading toward Glenwood Springs, and possibly toward my own home. I sat there helpless in the heat, watching the smoke and wondering what to do.

A trucker who was making a run from Los Angeles to Chicago and who was also stuck at Tibbets tapped on the side of my car.

“Have a pop,” she said, handing me an ice-cold Coke.

Tamie Meck is a staff writer for the Post Independent. Her column appears every Tuesday.


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