Lives have been changed. Futures have been remapped. Pasts have been incinerated.
Some 2,600 homes have been destroyed so far. Twenty beings have been claimed. The number of lives that will be completely reshaped continues to rise exponentially.
The wildfires are quickly becoming the worst anyone has ever seen.
The two fires burning in San Bernardino and San Diego are on a path of sheer destruction to which little end is in sight.
I am not writing to take a stance on fire. I think most people would agree that fire that takes lives and homes is indeed bad.
I do, however, take interest in the human response to such tragedies.
While reporting on the fires in Claremont, I learned of two individuals in particular who risked their lives fighting the fires. But they were not fighting to protect their homes or their families both of which were safe. They selflessly flung themselves into the belly of the beast to save what was important to their friends and neighbors.
Others not involved in the physical battle of combating the blazes have donated time, energy and money without hesitation to those affected by the fires. Although, unlike the heroic neighbors-turned-firefighters from above, these people could not save all their neighbors’ homes, but they will gladly be on the front lines to help them rebuild.
Not to mention the hoards of firefighters who, on a daily basis, are subject to dangers we, as the public, could never understand; and it is all in the name of protecting their fellow mankind.
In a region where merging into traffic can feel like trying to negotiate with terrorists, this sort of mindset is definitely not something we see everyday.
Southern California is definitely a region defined by autonomy and individualism. If not, why is there so many highways, and traffic is still some of the worst in the country? Never have I seen a region in which the carpool lane is such a premium.
No one wants to rely on any one else to get him or her somewhere; and no one wants to be relied upon to get someone else somewhere.
But, in times like these when we are being mercilessly attacked by something out of our control, this mentality changes. We stop worrying about the desire to be successful or getting to work or school on time. The daily grind comes to a screeching halt, and another pursuit takes over. We are overcome by the desire to help others and to achieve the greater good to society.
It’s a barbaric response. In times of crises, all secondary pursuits become moot, and the primary pursuit of survival of ourselves and those around us takes hold.
Heroes, in every form, are uncovered.
Each and every one of you deserves special recognition not only from those whom you have directly helped, but those watching intently from the sidelines.
We have all seen the monuments to soldiers who have died fighting valiantly for our country’s causes. And we have seen the statues erected honoring the firefighters and police officers of 9/11. These are beautiful things.
Now, however, I think it’s time to see a bronzed version of our neighborhood wildfire heroes. I will guarantee that every neighborhood affected has at least one.
It would be shimmering reminder-decorated in ash-drenched attire, a bucket, a few feet of garden hose and a shovel-of the heroic response of civilians when placed in an extraordinary situation.
Matt Paulson, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.