Independent Voices |

Independent Voices

What it means to me is a great sadness. Sadness for the loss of lives and sadness for how unnecessary it was. The focus is still on the wrong end of the events. We saw this fire almost immediately after the lightning strike and called it in, as did many others. We watched this tiny fire burn for days while bureaucracy bogged down. The travesty that ensued was unnecessary and could have been avoided. My heart goes out to the families’ losses, and I pray it never happens again.

The Storm King Fire marks the day when my family and I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley. We came from New York, where wildfires are rare. We were very impressed and grateful that firefighters came from out of state to help in our valley. That spirit of helping one’s neighbor is one of the reasons we moved here. The newspaper coverage has been a good reminder of the community’s promise never to forget, as well as a fitting tribute to those who unfortunately lost their lives.

Meaning? Things happen. Certainly the events surrounding the fire evoke feelings still. We happened to be up on top of North Mamm Peak on July 4 and saw the fire, along with several others. I wonder why the people who lived nearby didn’t go up and put it out then when it was just a few trees burning. It breaks my heart to imagine the horrible deaths and the grieving those deaths left behind. Perhaps some people learned things.

The fire of 1994 serves as a constant reminder of the ever-present danger where we have chosen to live, and the steps we should take to maximize our safety. We also recall with gratitude the devotion and sacrifice of the firefighters who put themselves in harm’s way, often paying the ultimate price, for our protection and well-being.

Our valley is without question the best place in the world to live, but we have had more than our share of disasters. The Storm King Fire was one of the worst. To have a wildfire of that magnitude threatening our town was fear beyond any of our imaginations. However, our fear was far outweighed by our sorrow. To have 14 firefighters die while protecting us propelled the entire valley into bereavement. But once again, the community, the people, joined together in force to give comfort and care in every way possible to everyone possible. We are thankful.

It was biblical. Billowing smoke towered over town. The late afternoon sun was a blood-red disc, like Moses versus Pharaoh.

At Two Rivers, we nervously watched tall trees crowning on the nearby ridge. From Canyon Creek, the worst sight of all: silver dots of fire shelters, just steps below safety on the ridge.

A year later, we madrigals sang at the memorial, not especially memorable. but later, when the Dunbar family came downtown to eat and reminisce, we circled and sang “America.” A small act of love, insignificant to their sacrifice, but all we could offer.

Like Gettysburg, Normandy, 9/11/NYFD: We cannot repay debts owed for biblical events. All we can do is say thank you and keep their memory.

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