As some of you know, Colorado is my adopted state and I’ve lived here just a year but it already feels like I’ve come home. My husband and I agree that moving here was the best thing we’ve ever done. We picked Colorado because we have family here, but also because of the natural beauty and warmer, drier climate. What we were delightedly surprised by was the people. Colorado people are warm, friendly and just plain lovely.
Coming from Chicago, the contrast was a bit stunning. Don’t get me wrong, I have some wonderful friends in the Chicago area and I love them dearly, but making friends there was hard. People are somewhat cold and tend to keep to themselves, especially in the suburb where we lived. Imagine, after years of living there, only knowing most of my neighbors by sight, we arrived here to find neighbors offering a friendly handshake and a warm welcome to the neighborhood.
Disasters tend to test people and show their true spirit, I think. And, what I’ve seen here in Colorado in the last two days has confirmed my belief. People across Colorado watched in horror as first High Park burned, and then the Waldo Canyon fire turned its flames on Colorado Springs. The grief here is palpable as we watch our neighbors lose their homes.
But, there is a bright side. Even as early as yesterday, agencies responding to the crisis were being flooded with volunteers and donations. People from across the state were calling to ask what was needed, and loading up their personal vehicles to bring needed supplies of water, food, and toiletries. Volunteers with horse trailers were showing up to help load and evacuate horses. Grooming salons and other pet-related business were opening their doors to take in evacuated pets.
One set of volunteers created a Facebook page to help coordinate efforts and spent their day (and I suspect their night) collating lists of people needing housing and people offering their homes for evacuees. People from all over the Front Range were posting updates offering shelter for families, pets and horses. There was even a group of massage therapists working with the Red Cross to provide massages to people in the evacuation shelters.
Denver and Pueblo-based food banks are now taking donations of food and supplies, so as the official response ramps up, the individual efforts can subside. But in the meantime, many people and animals were helped by the acts of individuals who simply took it on themselves to step in where they saw a need.
I’m so grateful for the actions of all these people, as well as for the official response from organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army. I think we forget how lucky we are to have Americans who dedicate their careers to helping others when disaster strikes. I have a friend like that. She’s works in Crisis Response for the Evangelical Free Church in America. It’s a tough job and it doesn’t pay much. In fact, many of them have to raise their own financing to stay in the field, but I’m so grateful that they do.
It goes without saying that firefighters are also the heroes of Colorado today. We are lucky that the High Park fire is now contained enough that they have been able to shift resources from that fire to help with Waldo Canyon. I can’t imagine how tired those men must be but their efforts (and the equipment they will bring with them) will help significantly.
Hang in there, Colorado. We can overcome this together. As the pastor from the Flying W Ranch said on the radio this morning, “God didn’t say we would not go through the fire but He did promise He would be with us when we did.” Not only that, but He will send the right people to help when we need them.