It’s funny that I started writing this post about how unrealistic most books are about widespread disaster and apocalyptic events before the fire started near us. Of course, it’s now completely different, because I can start from my own situation.
First, for those from out East, Colorado Springs – and most Western cities – are very widespread. They’re not all clumped together as in the North East. We have friends within the city that are more than forty five minutes away – without traffic jams.
That said, the evacuation line – though not the fire line – is now about three miles from us as the crow flies and has overtaken the highschool my son just graduated from. That’s a bit close for comfort, but it’s still on the other side of a six lane highway, which is twined at that place by a rocky, treeless creek bed. It’s a very impressive fire break. So far the fire hasn’t jumped i-25, which is a FOUR lane highway.
On the other hand, when the weather shifts in Col Springs (and it seems to be shifting) we tend to get hurricane-strength winds, which could jump that fire break in no time. It’s still unlikely to blow in our direction, but of course, there are no certainties.
So, what to do? Having heard stories of people who had too short a time to evacuate and had to leave pets behind, we are packing both suvs so that at the last minute we can grab the “small valuables, electronics and pets” and bug out in a few minutes. (We have the drill of boxing cats down to ten minutes. Vet trips.)
It honestly feels like we’re over dramatizing. It really is UNLIKELY to get to us, certainly unlikely to get to us in the next few days. On the other hand, this fire is now a firestorm and therefore not predictable. It still feels like we’re overdoing it, and we go about sheepishly, with a suspicion we’re being dramatic. On the other hand overplanning is survivable. Under planning isn’t.
There are reminders of doom all around. We have friends who’ve been burned out of their homes. We have standing requests not to use the cell phones, to leave them clear for emergency work. Planes flying overhead, to help fight the firs are a frequent reminder. The air is filled with smoke (though not as badly as last night.) The construction work across the street is stopped. My doctor has postponed an appointment that’s already been postponed and which I’m anxiously waiting for because it might be at the back of the knocked out immune system. It might be really bad. OTOH it might be nothing. I can’t know till I have that appointment, but the technician who operates the equipment is evacuated, out of town, and they don’t know when she’ll be back. So, the appointment is now mid-July. ALL hotels in Denver and Colorado Springs (Away from the evacuation zone) are booked solid. Our planned weekend away in Denver might be dificult to book, if this gets any worse – and if we have to evacuate, we literally have nowhere to go, so in packing the cars, we’re planning to live out of them for a while, including large kennels to put the cats in.
This is not the first emergency I’ve lived through, though it’s never come closer than it is right now, except once. When I was a kid in Portugal, a fire came to the other side of the train line, a block and a half from my parents’ house. There was no evacuation, so I was on top of the garage, tracking the fire progress. If it got to our side of the train line, we were going to run. Fortunately the wind went the other way, so it cost us a night fully awake.
Before that, there were revolutions in Portugal. After that, there was Hurricane Hugo in
Portugal Charlotte (Apologizes to Geography) and there was of course, 9/11.
I’ll use 9/11 if I may, because most of us got that it was an event of terrific proportions. I spent literally two days on line, tracking friends who were en-route through the country and stranded, seeing if we could offer help. And since Dan was working in Virginia at the time, our friend Alan and I went out to meet him. Our meeting place kept changing, depending on how far Dan had got, until finally we were in Hays Kansas, where Alan and I got out, at the airport, where Dan was going to hand in the rental car, prior to coming home with us.
And there we met a local. “Do you know why they cancelled the air show?” he asked. “Is it because of that problem in NYC?”
The way he talked about it, he made it sound like a minor incident that really only mattered to people from NYC.
And that is ultimately how the world ends. Catastrophic events happen, not all over at the same time with the same intensity, but in pockets. A neighborhood will be in chaos and ruin, and next door life will go on as usual. There’s construction going on up the street a bit. The grocery store is operating as normal, and I feel guilty because I’m not out there, painting the porch. (And how do you KNOW that the deck chairs on the titanic DIDN’T need dusting?)
For those of us raised in societies where a stiff upper lip was a virtue, too, there’s the feeling that we shouldn’t over dramatize. Some of our friends and neighbors are in real distress. We? Oh, we’re fine. Live is perfectly routine. Except we’re packing the car to bug out, and that’s probably overreacting.
In the middle of apocalyptic events, people still cook, still gossip, still change babies and do litter boxes.
This is the way the world ends – sporadically. Erratically. With normalcy amid the emergency. And we, mere humans, try to soldier on through it all.
Which is why the world doesn’t end totally but always partially. And then a new world is born.