I spent the week with Team Rubicon helping mitigate the fire damage to the property of some of the survivors of the McKinley Fire. Our aim was to clear off the residue so they can try to rebuild their homes before the snows fall. As Hurricane Dorian draws the nation’s attention away from this suffering and heart rendering catastrophe, The Mckinley fire leaves some families utterly destitute in Alaska, but their American Spirit leaves them unbroken.
It is easy to be distraught by the divisiveness within our country, sowed by the agenda-driven national media as they continue to fracture America’s cohesiveness. All one has to do to regain their faith in the country, and its citizens is to witness the commitment, care, and compassion of neighbors, first responders, volunteers, local government and national caregivers dedicated to those undergoing these calamitous events.
I met several extraordinarily resilient survivors as they shook off their fate, and determinedly began to rebuild their lives after losing literally every possession they owned. It is heart rendering to witness the absolute destruction to their lives. But one could not be more proud of the hardiness and indomitability of those enduring Americans as they wipe the tragedy out of their lives and rebuild. It’s equally comforting to see how other Americans care for their fellow citizens. If ever one thought Americans had lost their toughness to survive ‘hard times,’ they’d be wrong. The basic character of determination and resoluteness is still with us.
Ladies of Yancey
One example I came across, or rather, they came up to us, was with an All-Terrain Vehicle filled with ‘Ladies; from the Yancey neighborhood. Their home is on the edge of one of the fires and their yard was cinders and ash and burnt out trees. But their house miraculously survived. Their neighbors’ homes evaporated in smoke. To help, mom and her two young daughters drove around the destroyed neighborhoods while the smoke still rose from the active, hot ash pits. They passed out coffee, water, donuts, burritos and smiles to the many exhausted, muddy, grimy but determined and grateful firefighters who they heroically (and I don’t think that word is used hyperbolically here) fought the residual challenges of this disaster.
In many other cases, you’d find others dropping off desperately needed supplies to assistance centers. In one example, I learned of a 5th Wheel Trailer donated to a family that lost everything. I spoke with the Grandmother sitting on a chair amongst her burnt-out property. She was stoically grateful to have a roof over her and her son/wife and grand kids heads before the snows arrive.
Signs of gratitude are everywhere – literally. Not only do you see passer-bys giving a big thumbs up to every fireman/women they see marching up and down the roads, but there are signs everywhere with expressions of thanks. Some are even spray-painted on dirt roads!
I often wonder what I would have been had I not been a soldier. Sometimes I tell myself I’d like to have been an architect, designing impressive buildings to last the ages. Now I wonder if I should not have chosen Fireman, or a ‘Hot-Shot’ or ‘Smoke Jumper.’ From my observations in the last few weeks, I can’t help but think how incredible of a human specimen are these stalwart men and women. After chatting with them at many of these sites I visited, I can’t imagine a more honorable way to serve than this and being a member of that ‘Band of Brethren.’ To be that young and fearless again! The McKinley Fire and the American Spirit!
A few more photos
Below are a few photos highlighting some of the destruction (hopefully without any attribution to anybody’s lives) and highlighting neighbors helping neighbors.
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