At its roots, a town is about people

surfer by Jack Burleigh

blog by Ken McAlpine

photo by Jack Burleigh

Where we live is a special place. I suspect many people feel this way about the town they call home, but I am talking specifically about our home. Yes, our home has sun-kissed beaches, glittering surf, and blood-red Pacific sunsets that make you doubt your eyes. But these are superficialities.

In December, fire came to our town. The fire is past now, but the memories are not. The people in our town remember how frightened they were.

“We were terrified for our neighbors,” a Venturan said. “They don’t hear well, and they were asleep. It took some time to get them up and out.”

When the fire was done, people stood in soot, holding hands with memory, walking through their homes again and again.

“It’s only things,” a friend said.

I know this is not entirely so. But I believe my friend because she said this bravely. I know she will make this lie the truth. I know she is not alone.

At its roots, a town is about people. In our town, when the fires came, neighbors called neighbors. They banged on each other’s doors. They gathered each other’s things. They turned hoses on each other’s roofs and yards.

Our town is small and close.

“In Ventura,” a Venturan said, “there is one degree of separation.”

After the fire, our town moved about in an empathetic hush. We hugged and listened. But our town also rolled up its sleeves and got to work. A man put up a pop-up tent in front of his house and gave away donated goods. A woman with a small house and one cat took in more than a house full of people and six dogs. Restaurants served free meals to keep everyone going. Shoppers patronized local stores, for it was the holiday season, and, thanks to the miracle we call firefighters, our downtown was untouched.

Our town moved forward.

Perhaps our dawns are even more spectacular than our sunsets.

The Thomas Fire will never be forgotten. A school gave the fire its name. Everything ferries its lessons, fire included.

A hand-made sign, stuck in the ground along Main Street, says “We’ve Got This Ventura.”

We do.

Our town is not the first community to band together in the face of adversity.

But we are what we know.

We have seen a bad thing, and it has confirmed the good.

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