This is America: Her Fire Within

Childish Gambino’s song “This is America” quickly became one of the most popular songs of the year thanks to its viral video and the messages of racism, police brutality, and gun violence that he expertly raps on in the song. I too, enjoy the song. Although it is difficult many times to talk about our problems and faults, the only way to grow and fix them is by first acknowledging that they exist. The things Childish Gambino spins rhymes about are part of America. But that America is not what moved me to write tonight. I was moved to write about the America that Mr. Rogers (yes, that Mr. Rogers) so famously quoted years ago:

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It is easy to watch with sadness and let the despair creep into your heart as you watch coverage of the Camp Fire, which has quickly become the most deadly fire in California history. At the time of writing this 81 people have been killed and over 12,000 family homes have been completely destroyed. Many people have been were only able to get out with the clothes they had on their backs. Stories of people abandoning their cars and jumping into a lake reservoir to swim to an island in the middle to escape the flames as they destroyed their cars have become familiar fodder in newspapers. The stories that bring the tears to me involve the animals and the pets that are often left behind. I have to change the channel before I start to cry like Russel Crowe in gladiator – the ugly cry.

Time and time again, though, I am continually drawn back to these stories. The fires in California have reminded me of everything that is good about this place we live. It has reminded me that people are general good at their core. It has reminded me that decency and love and compassion will always win out over meanness and hate and indifference. That may strike you as odd, but just read a few of the following stories as proof that what I say is true.

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Josh Fox and Tracey Grant offered to let Mr Brundige stay with them for as long as he needs. Photo Credit: CBS News

Lee Brundiage is a decorated World War Two Veteran, who at 93, lived alone in the house that his wife designed for the two of them after she passed away a few years back. He was taken in by Josh Fox and Tracey Grant who met him while they were serving donated hamburgers at a displacement shelter. Grant invited him to stay with them as long as he needs. For the first two nights he slept in his truck in their driveway with blankets provided to him by the couple until they insisted he move inside to avoide breathing in the toxic ash. The couple have said he can stay as long as he needs.

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Dane Cumming, on the left, with 93 year old Margaret Newsum whom he rescued from the the fire in Magalia, CA. Photo Credit: California Waste Management

Dane Cumming was doing his daily waste management route when he noticed Margaret Newsum who was standing in her front yard trying to see if she needed to call someone to come get her to escape the fire. Newsum is 93 years old, and she also broke her back in a fall about 8 months ago. Dane Cumming helped load her up in his garbage truck and drove her to family members 2 hours away. She later learned that her home was destroyed about an hour later when the winds had shifted.

Allyn Pierce is a nurse who manages an ICU at a hospital in Butte County. He drove his Toyota truck through the fire twice on his day off in order to pick up patients and nurses after learning nurses refused to evacuate until all the patients were gone. At the end of the harrowing ordeal, Pierce posted a viral instagram post of his truck where somehow he was miraculously able to keep his since of humor by saying his truck now had a toasted marshmellow custom paint job.

A student athlete from Paradise High School  missed the state qualifiers for Track and Field due to the fire, rival runners in the nearby town of Chico offered to host another event to give him a chance to compete. He was cheered on by his former rivals as he successfully qualified for the state championship in the coming weeks. The Paradise High football team was due to play in the playoffs, but they had nowhere to stay or to train for their upcoming game. The San Francisco 49ers opened up their practice facilities for the team team to train and stay for several weeks. They even invited the team, all of whom lost their homes to the fire, to join them for the national anthem before a recent game.

Perhaps one of the most uplifting things (IMHO, of course) has been the big businesses putting their profit margins aside to help those affected by the fires. Hotel Chains in the California area and AirBNB are offering free or discounted rooms if they have them available. Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to evacuation zones and shelters. The VCA Animal Hospital, Humane Society, and LA County Animal Care Foundation are assisting shelter and feed displaced pets — and are accepting donations, as well. Comcast has opened hotspots to allow people to let their loved ones know they are safe. Verizon has provided evacuation centers with communication stations that provide free calling, texting, and data. Lastly, in an act that can only be described as quintessentially American, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (a company created by everyday entrepreneurs that has grown to the 5th largest brewery in the nation) has created a formula for a brew it is asking breweries all across the country to create and donate 100% of the proceeds to the survivors of the fires.

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As a person who tries to see the good in people, I believe the America that Childish Gambino refers to is the smaller piece of the American fabric. That is sometimes America. To me, THIS is America. The actions of everyday people helping their neighbors. Helping Strangers. Helping animals. Helping each other.

This is America. The place were when people cry out for help, there is no such thing as democrats or republicans. Or black and white. Or rich or poor. There are only Americans helping Americans.

This is America. The place where firefighters and EMS and police run into burning buildings or charge into burning forrests to put out the flames. To save their fellow Americans. To save the pets of their fellow Americans.

This is America. The place where in times of crisis nothing else matters more than getting through. Then going on. Then surviving. And as Americans have done for generations, once we have survived, we give thanks, and hopefully give back to those who need the help more than you do. It has happened time and time again in the history of our nation. As we move into Thanksgiving tomorrow, consider giving thanks by donating to one of the relief organizations below, and by reminding youself that no matter what negativity we see on the news or read in the papers, that this is America, and as long as we stick together, everything will be ok.

-WB

Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation: The Los Angeles County Animal Care Foundation assists emergency response and disaster relief efforts through its Noah’s Legacy fund by providing supplies, training and equipment, including animal safe trailers that provide temporary sheltering for pets whose owners have evacuated.

American Red Cross: The American Red Cross is assisting residents in northern and southern California to help find shelter. To make a donation visit the redcross.org, call 1-800-RED or text the word REDCROSS to 90999.

Humane Society of Ventura County: This nonprofit is accepting donations to help animals displaced by the Woolsey and Hill Fires. It is taking in domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and birds, as well as livestock.

CCF Wildfire Relief Fund: The organization helps provide long-term recovery efforts to those impacted by California wildfires. The relief fund has also created local initiatives to help those affected by the fires. Click here to learn more.

 

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