It's been a long week for everybody and yesterday was no different: High temps, smoky air, a new, sooty cloud pouring over the ridge behind Mountain Shadows, and a handful of spot fires spilling smoke into the air around Blodgett Peak. I watched and waited from the outdoor patio at Chipotle, at the bottom of Centennial Boulevard. Like a lot of other people, I was waiting for word that I could get back to my house, less than a mile away.
The wait has been frustrating, but I was so grateful to have a home to go back to, knowing that others were not so lucky. The woman I did my first 14er with - Pikes Peak - has a home but she can't go back for six months, because it's surrounded by the burned-down houses of her neighbors. The guy that I climbed Elbert with lost his home and everything in it.
They lifted the evacuations along Ute Valley Park last night, and thousands of people were allowed back into their homes. I have never been so happy to see my house! I honked the horn the whole way through the neighborhood.
I was overcome, going home - speechless - but today I woke up proud and grateful for all the people who came forward to show their true colors through all this: The newscasters who followed this from Day 1, and kept us all informed round-the-clock; the people at the City of Colorado Springs, who got my utilities back on and sent me an email this morning with all the latest updates; all the people who came forward with offers of room and board; the policemen and women who have been a permanent fixture on the streets around the northwest part of the city, keeping traffic flowing and protecting the privacy of those dealing with loss; my friends and neighbors who reached out to me to share whatever updates they could glean from the press conferences, photos, and evacuee meetings. I watched the President's small motorcade speed by yesterday and it made me proud and grateful too, that my country cared. He had just toured the burned-out neighborhoods and was on his way to meet with firefighters at local Fire Station Number 9.
I'm sure I'm not alone in knowing that I will never look at firefighters the same way ever again... I know I'll want to thank them and let them know what a difference they made for me and for so many other people. I've been driving by Holmes Middle School every day, looking at the little silver domed tents where many of the out-of-town firefighters make their homes at night, after spending all their waking hours fighting the Waldo Canyon fire. Last night on the news I saw a photo of firefighters taking a break at the site of the still-burning fire. They were wrapped in sleeping bags, at rest in the middle of the road, because that was the safest place for them to sleep.
I'm a cynical person by nature, somewhat antisocial, and am generally annoyed by most other people. It's hard to be annoyed by a firefighter. What they do is amazing and I know that when I see them doing their weekly shopping at the local grocery store I'm going to want to hug every one of them. I think there are a lot of people who are going to want to do the same. I hope those firefighters like hugs!
For me, this is over - I can inhale now, and exhale too. I'm heading up to Rocky Mountain National Park for the weekend for some fresh air and mountain views, and as much as I'm going to love it, it sure feels good to know that I'll have a home to come back to Sunday night. Thanks to all who made that possible.