June 28, 2012

I watched the fire start Saturday from my patio at the end of Garden of the Gods and 30th at 12:20pm. Over the course of the next six hours I watched the smoke grow higher, thicker, faster. I knew this was going to be bad, but I could never have imagined how bad.

Tuesday afternoon around 4pm I heard they were evacuating all of Mountain Shadows. I knew they had evacuated much of Mountain Shadows Saturday evening because I had a friend who refused to evacuate. I had not been ordered to evacuate, so I thought I probably had time to get home and check things out. I left downtown at 5:15 and decided to go north on Nevada, instead of I25. The traffic was going about ten miles an hour and when I reached Fillmore, my heart started racing. The smell of smoke was immediate and suffocating, ash was flying, the sky turned black, the sun was bright orange, and the wind was howling.

I was listening to 105.5 and hearing panic in the voices of people who had previously been calm for the four days I had listened to them reporting on the Waldo Canyon Fire. One young reporter, Jackie, who I had seen many times while watching it on TV, was literally in the middle of the evacuation leaving Mountain Shadows. Her professionalism and ability to continue to report through her journey away from the fire, while admitting she was sacred, was inspiring.

By the time I reached Garden of the Gods, I was doubtful that I would be able to turn west, and the smoke, ash, sky, sun, wind, had turned thicker, darker, brighter, louder. I was scared, but I wanted to get home and get my bird. As I traveled west on Garden of the Gods, the traffic east was bumper to bumper, but not moving slowly. I drove pretty quickly to Centennial. I could see cars ahead of me still going through the light at Centennial and Garden of the Gods headed west. I was three cars back from the red light about to turn green, and a police car sped into the intersection, slammed on his breaks, and stopped us from going through the red light. I sat there through 13 red lights and watched the people flooding down Centennial. They continued to go south down Centennial in droves. The police officer was motioning them with both arms to go faster, faster, faster, and they did. Then Centennial became a one way street and there were more cars, going faster, faster, faster. Finally, the police officer stopped the cars and motioned to those of us waiting, to go left, south on Centennial. Garden of the Gods was closed to going any further west.

It’s funny how your mind works. I knew this was urgent, but I wanted to get my bird. I took Mesa down to 30th, but there was a police car blocking traffic.
I said “Do you think they might open this up later when the traffic clears?”
He said “That depends on the fire.”
I immediately realized how stupid my question was.

I called a friend and went to her house near Uintah and 19th. I watched, and listened while my heart started to sink and the fear of the unknown began.
I decided to go to my daughter’s house near Patty Jewett and watched the horror for hours with her, my son-in-law, and my nine year old grandson.

It doesn’t seem possible that was all less than 48 hours ago.
Like many of us, I have continued to watch TV, listen to the radio almost nonstop. I have not missed one of the reports daily at 8am and 4pm. I am so impressed with the people involved in these press conferences.
They start on time, every time. They are quick, informative, organized, professional, and there are so many key people there every time. I have become a big fan of most of them, especially the lady, Jerry, from the Forest Service, who starts each one. It has also been nice to have our Mayor, Steve Bach, reminding us what a strong community we are and reassuring us we will get through this together.

My friend in Mountain Shadows lost his home. So many people in Mountain Shadows lost their homes. My daughter did a Google map yesterday and there are total sections of block, after block, after block in that area that are literally just ashes. I live in the Spring Canyon Apartments, on the right hand side, at the very end of Garden and the Gods and 30th. According to the fire map, the fire stopped just across the street.
I will probably not find my bird alive if they don’t let us back in until Monday. I tried yesterday and approached a police officer standing at the intersection of Chestnut and Garden of the Gods. I had watched from the parking lot of the 711 as others had approached him and he seemed receptive.

I said “I live at the end of Garden of the Gods in the Spring Canyon Apartments and I was unable to get my bird out yesterday. Is there any chance I can get him?”
He turned on his hand piece and said “Someone is asking if they can get their bird out of the Spring Canyon Apartments.”
The man on the other end said “Give me a second.”
In a second, he reported back “Absolutely NOT!”

I have lived in Colorado Springs for 35 years. My family, friends, and clients are people I love and care about. My heart breaks for those who have lost homes, pets, and a big chuck of the beauty of our wonderful city.
I believe we will all pull together in a way that is unprecedented to help each other, especially those so greatly impacted by this tragedy. We have an opportunity to rebuild, grow, enrich and renew our wonderful community and be an example of hope and encouragement for any other city who endures such an unimaginable disaster.

Tomorrow I plan to get back to work. Nothing will seem really normal for a long time, but getting back to normal is one of the first healing steps. I am thinking hard about what I can do to help. I am not sure how to use my talents as a Matchmaker, but I will find a way to help.

God bless Colorado Springs, Manitou Springs, Cedar Heights, Woodland Park, and know how grateful we are that no lives have been lost!!!!

To be continued……..