Monday, September 12, 2011

The Burning of My Hometown

Bastrop fire, New Braunfels photographerI've been a bit silent on the blog front lately and I apologize. I'm sure you've missed my musings on trash in the middle of the street and various inconsequential observations.

But this past week I've been distracted. I was raised in Bastrop, Texas. Bastrop High School Class of -- never mind. I sat in horror for many days watching the news, searching for information, listening to the police scanner broadcast from Bastrop, and logging onto Facebook as one after another after another of my friends posted of their lost home, or their parents or loved one's lost home. I lost count after a while and it seems every time the news updated the figures -- first 300 homes, then 500, then 600, 1,100, 1,300 homes destroyed -- I grew numb at the shock. I sat in disbelief at the shear size of this monster fire that wiped out everything in its path. It didn't discriminate based on wealth. It destroyed tiny rural shacks and multi-million dollar estates.

My mother and my brother and nephew were forced to evacuate their home as well. She had time to grab her insurance paperwork and her wedding album she said. What about all the boxes of photo albums of my childhood? I asked. They're in the closet under the stairs. At least my family was safe. We watched and waited as day after day more homes were burned. The homes I spent many times in. Slumber parties, Friday nights after the football games, birthday parties, study groups. One of my BFFs, Shelli's home was one of the first to go -- along with all her high school memorabilia. She always thought it was safe in her old room. Then went Tabby's, Kristine's, and on and on. One after one, my friends' childhood homes went up in flames and I wondered if my mom's home, or my childhood home was next.

Bastrop fire, New Braunfels photographerIn the end, my mom's home survived. But it's hard to see a silver lining among all that smoke. So many people homeless. So many beautiful homes gone. So many gorgeous pine trees. Almost all of Bastrop State Park. The place I learned to swim. The place I hung out in summer time my whole life. The place my daughter -- the champion Landa Park Dolphin -- learned to swim at the tender age of 4. So many memories, up in smoke.

Bastrop fire, New Braunfels photographerI went to town Sunday to see the damage, visit with my family and take stock of the situation. I was amazed to see FEMA setting up camp in the parking lot of the old hospital. The furniture store where I got my dining room table was the site of dozens of insurance company trailers camped out to help people file their claims. And everywhere were tents protecting donations. Tons and tons of donations. Most of them with large signs at front saying "no more donations please." The kindness of the community in Bastrop as well as the rest of the state is overwhelming this small town and the people who have more kindness showered on them than they know how to handle. Although I really don't see why a family who just lost their home has any need for the stack of JC Penny catalogs from 1993 that I saw in the midst of one donation site. I really hope some aren't taking this as an opportunity to clean all the junk out of their closets and claim it as charity.

Bastrop will rebuild. It's a strong town. Everyone who lost their home is surrounded by their friends. We take care of each other. The homes will be rebuilt. And the state park will survive as well. The trees will grow back. It may not be next year, or the year after. But the Lost Pines will be found again.

Lisa On Location Photography

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