Mementos Found in Remains of North Bay Fires Offer a Sense of Hope
Fran Bengtsson says she recovered a few things she holds dear in the wreckage of her house after it burned down from the Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa. Among the things she found were her grandfather's medals and her grandmother's china and silverware. She also found horseshoes that a friend had given her. (Sarah Craig/KQED)
Precious mementos found in the ashes are providing some hope for survivors of the wildfires -- some who lost nearly everything.
One of the survivors is Don Pagal. He found his ruby ring covered in ashes, but intact.
"For it to make it ... just shows that we will make it, too," Pagal said. He's a veteran and he was given the ring when he joined the Marine Corps. "It’s been to Vietnam, Saigon. It’s been everywhere."
Another survivor is Julie Birdsall. She loves vintage objects and found some small vintage vases made of porcelain doll heads that were popular in the '30s and '40s.
"This particular one I always liked because her eyes are closed and her eyelashes are really long and her hair is bouffant-like."
And then there's Fran Bengtsson. She found her grandfather's precious military medals and her grandmother's porcelain china and silverware. And she said she wants to polish a pair of recovered horseshoes that a friend gave her.
The fire claimed at least 8,400 structures and many memories. Family photos, high school yearbooks, even a beloved vintage car owned by Birdsall.
"Her name was Shirley," she said. "Because slowly but surely we'd get it finished. And you know, when I drove that car, time seemed to stand still. I was never in a hurry. I didn't care where I was going."
But many survivors are holding onto the little treasures found in the ash as a way to help them move forward.
For Pagal, his ring is a symbol of the fight ahead of him and his neighbors. But it's also a symbol of surviving.
"I'm glad I made it," he said. And his ring? "It's going to have more memories to go with it."