My family was recently evacuated during the Woosley fires in California.
The day before we were evacuated I had spent the entire day watching the news because of the shooting that occurred at Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks.
This hit close to home for me, not only because the bar is within miles of my home, but my daughter frequented this bar while she was in college. She graduated a year ago and she and her friends had recently been planning on going for old times sake.
After a day of praying and shedding tears for the families and thanking God my daughter had not decided to reunite with her friends, I was exhausted. That night, I decided to work out to clear my mind and not watch the news. As I slept an uneasy sleep, I received a text message around 5:00 a.m. asking if we had evacuated.
As I stared at the text with confusion, I heard helicopters and sirens and noticed our power was out. I ran to the front door and saw neighbors standing outside loading up their cars. I immediately ran to wake my son and daughter.
My daughter had decided to spend time with us the night before because she was devasted by the shootings. Thank goodness we were all together. At the time a mandatary evacuation had not been set in place, but it was clear it would be.
Our neighborhood is surrounded by beautiful mountains and clear skies. On this morning, the beauty of our city was rapidly being destroyed by a fast growing fire. After talking with neighbors and trying to come up with a game plan, we all decided it was time to leave. As we quickly ran back in to pack, we were frozen. What do you take in a fire? What’s important?
I grabbed a file with birth certificates and social security cards and some necessities, like a toothbrush. I told my son to grab his valuables. In the midst of chaos, he made us laugh: he had chosen his XBOX and a jacket he received from the LOGIC tour.
As we made our way to safety, our streets were filled with smoke and an eerie silence. Little did we know it would be days before our return.
We spent all day Friday watching the news and communicating with friends, family and neighbors. The sense of unity and love was heightened. We all sat in fear of losing our homes. As the news was reported from our neighborhood, we were physically and emotionally sickened by what could possibly happen.
My daughter decided to step out for a while. I called her when I saw the fire crossing the street from the mountains to our home. I told her I wanted to go home before it hit our place and possibly get some things. She calmly said, “Mom, if we lose our home God will only bless us with something greater. We will get through this. Also, they are not going to let you into the neighborhood.”
I laughed because she was absolutely right. Her young words of wisdom and faith spoke volumes. I calmed myself and began to ask anyone that called to pray for us. My prayers were answered. We were under mandatory evacuation for over a week, but our home was spared, unlike many of our neighbors.
With limited necessities and resources, I was happy we were all together. We spent our days monitoring the news and reading Facebook updates from neighbors. Friends and family reached out, offering to take us out to eat or asking how they could help. My friend and her mom found clothes for us to wear. They even provided toiletries that we were missing. Yes, we needed toiletries. I had packed a toothbrush but had forgotten to pack toothpaste.
This is why you should always have a bag packed in case of emergencies! Sounds dramatic, but I wish I had. On the sixth day of the evacuation, the news reported the evacuation had been lifted in our area.
As my family rejoiced, my friend suggested we stay a little longer because we would be returning home to lots of smoke and ash. We should have listened. Driving through the city was unbearable. The smoke and ash were so intense. We tried to overlook it. We just wanted to get home.
When we stepped into our home, it smelled like someone had decided to BBQ or have a bonfire inside of our home. The guest bathroom window had blown open, and there was even more ash and smoke in that bathroom. Everything we left behind smells like smoke.
In order to tackle this, we have all had to step up with the cleaning. We plan on having someone come in and clean, but we are dealing with washing and dry cleaning all of our clothes. We had to throw away food.
Prior to our return, we purchased an air purifier. Coupled with using the air purifier, we have to run the fan and change the air filters every five days. Returning home has not been easy for us. I am highly allergic to ash, my daughter is severely asthmatic, and we had to send the family dog to a friend’s house to stay because of her allergies.
My son complains about not being able to breathe. We have spent nights at home and try to stay out during the day. Just like us, so many of our neighbors were affected by these fires. Over 90 families in our small school district lost their home, and that is not including two of the school administrators.
Aside from that, it is estimated that over 300 people lost their homes. The city and our schools have been diligent in sharing updates and resources for everyone that have been affected. The devastation of these fires has been stressful and draining.
I did not lose my home, but the emotional stress has taken a toll on me. I woke up this morning feeling a little more at home. I’m hoping everyday will get easier for me and everyone affected. But through it all, seeing my family and being near my kids has been a blessing. This is a trying time for our family but we seem to be closer than ever.
Aside from that, our community is stronger. I have never felt so much love in this community and I have lived here for almost 15 years I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. As all WonderMoms know, no matter what, there is always something to be thankful for and I hope you and your family feel the love this year, too.★
Keke Dixon has BA in Mass Communications and Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations. She is a mother of a 24 and 13-year-old. Her lifestyle site is Free and For Me. Got Milk Awarded her as Better Future Mom and for being one of the most influential influencers.