Survival Is Not Enough

Stonyvale Residence Engulfed in Flames
August 29, 2009. A residence in the Angeles National Forest succumbs to flames.
Photo credit: Duncan Baird

It has been a year since the Station Fire roared through my neighborhood, destroying over three-quarters of the homes here, not to mention the homes and businesses lost elsewhere in the Angeles Forest. For those of us who call the forest our home, it has been a hard year, full of challenges and frustrations, emotional roller coasters and far, far too many long, dark nights of the soul.

This first year has been about survival, about taking care of basic needs like shelter and clothing, and all the tiny little details of day-to-day living that we too often take for granted. And we have survived, or rather, most of us have. I know of four former Angeles residents who have died since the fire. That is over and above the two firefighters who died in the fire itself.

The press tends to call us victims, but I reject that label. We are not victims. We are survivors. Those of us who remain have survived fire and flood. We have formed friendships and alliances. But most of all, we have come together as a community with a fierce resolve that is wondrous to behold.

No, we are not victims. We are survivors, and as a survivor I say to you that survival is not enough. As we move forward into this next year we must reach beyond survival to something greater. For some of us that means breaking ground on new construction to build a new home here in the mountains. For others it means rediscovering an internal balance that so many of us lost when our lives were overturned and thrown into a blender. And for others it means moving beyond the horror and trauma, healing the damage to soul and psyche that has clouded our minds and sapped our strength.

We can do this. I know it my heart and I feel it in my bones. We have survived a horrible and terrifying disaster, and nothing and no one can take that accomplishment away from us. And make no mistake, survival is an accomplishment.

But we deserve more. And we can achieve more. So as we move into the coming year I hope you will join me and say to the world, nay, to the universe itself, that survival alone is not enough.


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