In the year since the North Bay fires, psychologist Kate Gustin has seen the deep harm of emotional and physical trauma. She’s also seen the triumph of a caring and compassionate community.
Anniversaries carry significance. But, of course, not all anniversaries are celebratory. The upcoming anniversary of the North Bay fires marks a full year since devastating wildfires demolished 240,000 acres and thousands of homes in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties. Forty-four people died.
For my clients and colleagues who lost their houses, the anniversary marks a year of displacement, dispossession, homelessness. To this day, they continue to negotiate with insurance companies.
For those who didn’t lose their homes, but had to flee, the year was still marked with the same psychological fallout: of having been stripped of the illusion of security and immortality we all take for granted. The fires also divested many of the human pretense of self-sufficiency. It humbled those affected into accepting help from others.
This leads me to consider another angle into this anniversary: that it also marks a year of community, of people responding to the needs of others. Compassionate friends, relatives, even strangers demonstrated generosity. Their support reflects what humanity at its best is capable of, when people step out of their silos of self-interest.