This morning I went to the Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego to bring some blankets, toys, clothes etc. to the people who have been evacuated from their homes in the area due to the raging wildfires.
More than 300,000 people have been evacuated. This is not an abstract number or idea. During Katrina say, or many other disasters, I watched images on the news and read the stories in the paper but my proximity to this situation has changed everything for me. The air everywhere, is FILLED with smoke. The few people who are outside, walking to work or waiting for a bus, have bandanas, or masks, or an extra piece of clothing over their mouths. As if they are running out of a house in flames. Only they are just there, in a moment in their lives, and you don't see the fires, but they seem to be EVERYWHERE around here.
I came down yesterday morning because my grandmother is in the hospital (unrelated to the fires). She is a serious current events buff in general but laying in a hospital bed with no mobility makes 'keeping up on the news' pretty inevitable. She suggested I bring a carload of blankets, toys, and clothes to the stadium as was requested on the TV. I did so this morning.
Here are a few amazing/sad/inspiring things I saw:
* A woman in her late-30s or early-40s pacing in one section of the parking lots, barefoot and crying. She had a baby over her shoulder that she was patting on the back. The baby was not real though, it was a plastic doll.
* Lots of donuts
* MANY grown men trying to put cots together (I think they were not quite camping/handy-person types)
* Wild exotic birds hovering around three teenagers in their pick-up. Two large macaws, several parrots and parakeets. Nearby, in another truck, several singing canaries.
* An older woman playing a flute
* Many children, one with a balloon-animal on his head
* Mounds of donations and and steady stream of more on the way
* Many couples staring into space but holding hands
* Several neighborly interactions between strangers. Sharing refreshments, playing cards together, rocking babies.
* So many dogs.
* ALL kinds of people.