It's hard sitting here in Central Oregon seeing all my family and friends being affected by the fires in Northern California.
In a sense I feel helpless, but hoping and praying when I can get an opportunity to help the people and city I love with all my heart. While I can't offer any tangible help just yet—I can lend some words of encouragement and a bit of my heart with you.
Leaving The Land Of My Birth
From the moment our dark green 1994 Toyota Previa hit Hwy 101 south towing a little Uhaul trailer filled with everything we owned, I knew I had made a mistake—I believed the lie that I would never miss my hometown—Santa Rosa.
I've spent the better part of almost seventeen years in a conundrum missing the land of my birth and trying to believe the lie I would never miss it.
My mom's words were true when she said we would regret leaving the area and that we were giving up our birthright moving away from Sonoma county—she said so many people from our family fought hard to bring our family to plant roots and create a legacy there in Sonoma—She was right in so many ways.
Don't get me wrong—I've been so blessed to live in three other states and meet so many people who have added to my life and that of my family. We have lived in some pretty cool places and have met some amazing people! Still there was always something tugging at my heart, sorta turning my head and eyes west—towards California, towards the pacific ocean—towards my hometown, Sonoma County—Santa Rosa.
I knew I made people crazy in Missouri, Colorado, and Oregon with how much I would tell them of the beauty and awesomeness of Santa Rosa and Sonoma County—many of them would respond with disdain towards California, but I'd correct them and tell "Hey I am not just talking about California—I am talking about Sonoma County."
Some of my most formative years—birth all the way up to my thirties were spent in living in Sonoma County—Santa Rosa, Healdsburg, and Windsor. All my family on both sides are from there and many still live there. My wife is from Windsor, CA which is near Santa Rosa. And my all three of our kids were born in Santa Rosa—one at the old community hospital and the other two at Kaiser hospital.
It's kind of funny, but whenever I tell people we are from Santa Rosa, my wife will always correct me and say she isnt from there, she is from Windsor... Every family has their little rivalries.
My heart breaks for Santa Rosa and Sonoma county. There are so many memories racing through my mind as I write this. Births, weddings, deaths, jobs, elementary and JR. High, high school...
I was kicked out of Lawerence Cook Jr. High falsely accused of causing mischief, and eneded up at Slater Jr. High. I was then expelled from Montgomery High School for things I didn't do... Ahem.mmm... I ended up at Santa Rosa High School—class of 1991. I met my wife whenwere were seventeen at a party in an apartment in downtown Santa Rosa, and we were eventually married with our wedding and honeymoon at Vintners Inn.
I'll never forget the time I got caught by a Park Ranger and Sonoma County Sheriffs Deputy climbing down Goat Rock, which is on the Sonoma coast—I was also hauling down with me a bag full of empty forty ounce bottles of what once contained Old English and Mickey's malt liquor—to this day I still don't know how I walked away with only a $275 fine.
We were hoping to move back to Sonoma County so we could be back with family—we moved out of the area in 2001. It might not be possible now—my mom's words were true when she said we would regret leaving the area and that we were giving up our birthright moving away from Sonoma county.
It’s hard to explain the love and devotion I have for my hometown Santa Rosa—I know every inch of that area like the back of my hand.
When Disaster Hits
I’ve lived is some beautiful places outside of Sonoma county—the Ozark mountains, the Rocky mountains in Northern Colorado (Boulder County to be exact), and the high desert of Central Oregon, but there is NO place on earth like Sonoma County, CA. The people, places, and things there—oh the people—my family, friends, and childhood friends—the people...
So it is devastating to say the least about the destruction disaster can do to a place and it's people. I’ve experienced five different types of natural disasters—an earthquake, tornado, catastrophic flood, blizzards, and wildfires in all the different places I’ve lived. And each one has taken a piece of me. I've been both a victim and a helper in each of these situations. The exhaustion, fear, anger, sadness, and uncertainty can be overwhelming.
People—government and non-government agancies—will come at you from all directions. They will make you feel lost, ignorant, or safe and secure. Some people will be out to use you to get a quick dollar. And some will try to help you, but they will just get in the way. Some people won't help you at all and they will make you feel abandoned and alone. There are some bad people out there, just be aware of that fact.
Still others—these others— are the true heroes! They have their shit together and they know how to help you and they will! Because the opposite is true here as well—there are some really good people out there who genuinely care for people.
Message To The People Of My Motherland
I am just heartbroken for you! Many of my family and friends had to evacuate. Some lost their homes, businesses, and jobs. All have lost some bit of innocence.
Disasters like fires will do that—You'll lose some part of you that believed the land you call home can't be destroyed—that innocence is gone now—you can't get back to how it used to be, but you can move forward.
Some of you will want to 'get out of Dodge' so to speak. Others of you will be determined to rebuiled. Follow your heart and do what you need to do. But remember, once you leave Santa Rosa it will be hard getting back.
The people of Santa Rosa and Sonoma county will recover. The people, they are strong and resilient. They are people from all over—some like my family people who have been in the area for a long time and some still longer—some are new to the area transplants from other parts unknown—all seeking to live in one of the greatest places on earth.
Life will not be the same, but you’ll get through this! I believe in you Santa Rosa! My heart and prayers are with you.
My deepest love, One of your native sons