Note from Laura: I wrote this article for a local newspaper after Colorado’s Black Forest Wildfire swept through our little community on June 11, 2013. I’m republishing it here because I realize the lessons we wildfire survivors learned also apply to anyone who faces non-negotiable change in business or life. It’s been five years since that wildfire, and while recovery is often a slow process, most of us have found a way to move on and make peace. I pray the same for you!
If Not for the Fire by Laura Lollar, Black Forest, Colorado
“Remember two people died,” my son said when I told him I would be writing this article about the Black Forest Wildfire.
So I must start with that — the greatest loss of all. Marc Allen Herklotz and his wife Robin Lauran Herklotz died on June 11, 2013, the first day of the fire. And I’m sure I’m not alone in saying this entire community has and continues to grieve for their family and friends.
While devastating, the destruction of homes, vehicles, pets and possessions can seem insignificant in comparison. But that doesn’t minimize how people suffered from this event. There are no winners in a pain competition.
But there is always another side to a proverbial coin. “If not for the fire,” was the phrase my adjuster repeated as we worked through the insurance claim. Maybe you can relate.
If not for the fire, we would not have….
…learned first-hand the importance of our highly-trained and dedicated first responders. They shouldered the risk and responsibility without complaint. We are grateful for their service and sacrifice.
…experienced the kindness, generosity and compassion of perfect strangers, family, friends, churches, volunteers and community organizations that lined up to support us. They sifted through ashes, donated clothing, vehicles, personal items and pet food. They prayed with us. They opened their homes and hearts. A classmate I hadn’t seen or spoken with in 40 years sent a quilt she’d made after she heard our news. A former client knitted an afghan. A friend, who earlier couldn’t bear to part with her departed Mother’s clothes, urged me to take what I needed. Stories like that were the norm, not the exception.
…gained an appreciation for what’s really important in life. While we mourned the loss of photos, family heirlooms and children’s memorabilia, it became very clear very fast that most of the “stuff” we fill our lives with can be replaced. Many of us resist bringing too much back into our spaces because we’ve learned we don’t need it. We don’t want it. It’s the relationships that count. Treasured experiences cannot be swept away in one hot, windy afternoon.
…shown others how to lean into loss, manage the marathon of recovery and give grace to those who handled grief very differently. What a gift to give to friends and family – to show what’s possible when faced with tragedy and trauma! Your optimism and ability to move forward despite the struggle serves as an example of what resolve and resilience looks like.
…grown in ways we might never have, had we not been tested. Do you have more patience now as you face life’s little frustrations and setbacks? Are you better able to put things in perspective? Because we learned the hard way to manage our resources (time, energy and emotional bandwidth) can you make wiser choices? Is it easier to say no? Now that we’ve experienced decision fatigue, perhaps you simplify whenever possible. My guess is you’re a much better problem solver than ever before.
If not for the fire, we wouldn’t be the families, businesses and people we are today. You have earned a unique perspective from this “trial by fire” so many speak of. And in years to come, we will discover more ways the wildfire forged a stronger and wiser Black Forest Together.