A Thanksgiving like no other

By Logan Wilson

“It will never happen to me.” That’s what I thought until it did. Everything changed the night of November 12, when the Camp Fire devasted our community and burned our home. The stories are horrific, the loss unbearable. But in the midst of the smoke and in the sting of loss, there are accounts of survival and hope. Here’s mine.

When another small wisp of smoke rose over the canyon in the general direction of Paradise at 7:00am Thursday morning, I was concerned mainly for my grandparents who have lived in their Paradise home for 39 years, the home where my mom was raised. My Grandpa was a retired firefighter, my Grandma a retired teacher. I made a quick call to my Grandpa and we decided he would come to our house in case of evacuation. I then rushed our three boys off to school, calling my wife who was already gone to Sacramento that morning to tell her about the fire that started in Paradise. Little did I know that the inferno would rip through Butte Creek Canyon and engulf our home later that night.

At 85 years old, we credit my Grandpa’s instincts as a firefighter and the prayers from community that got them out alive. They drove thru the same infernos and smoke that have been detailed on the news and made it to safety. The same couldn’t be said for our house. Last Friday, we learned it had burned down, and the concussion of loss was salved by thankful tears that my wife, boys, and grandparents had all made it out alive. We didn’t feel like fire victims in that moment, we felt like fire survivors.

And that’s where this story turns—on the word victim. Our community in the Sacramento Valley is determined with ferocity to meet the needs of the displaced and not be a victim to tragedy. There is grit and determination in our community—not just by the displaced 30,000 evacuees, but the volunteers as well—especially the volunteers. The undeniable surge of community support, effort, and selfless giving is miraculous.

You see, the displaced members (my family included) of our rural community consider ourselves to be the “helpers,” not the “helpless.” The hardest thing for us to do is receive help—but that’s exactly what we’ve had to do, and what we have to keep doing. It’s a good thing there’s no shortage of human kindness, goodwill, and sincere love gushing from every person and every corner of the region. My wife and boys have literally had to depend on friends, family, and people we don’t know for a bed to sleep in, clothes to wear, and food to eat. For that, we are thankful.

This year for Thanksgiving—a year like no other—we can be thankful for family even if displaced, for community even if in a shelter, and for hope even all feels lost, because there is a future for the survivors of the Camp Fire. Our region is too committed, our volunteers too valiant, and our survivors too stubborn to allow tragedy to win.

Thank others and be thankful for them. Give and be given too. It’s what we do here in the Sacramento Valley.

Logan Wilson works in the California rice industry. He, his wife, and three handsome boys have lived in Butte County for over a decade, and his family has roots back three generations.