Thursday, October 25, 2007

California on Fire

I just got back from El Toro High School, which is an evacuation shelter for victims displaced from the horrible Santiago Canyon fires. It's a scene that etches into one's memory like an overly bright light bulb. We've all seen the images of people sleeping on cots, having nothing but the clothes on their back, but nothing does those pictures justice other than seeing it firsthand. The parking is filled with cars, motor homes and pop-ups. Pets on leashes wander around with their owners – each looking dazed and worried, while others lie around, waiting.

My daughter and I arrived with three boxes of books – “hurts” that didn’t survive the book signing process. We can’t sell them for retail, so we’ve been donating them to the Wounded Warriors in Camp Pendleton. As I drove past the high school yesterday, I got the bright idea to give these poor victims something else to think about. How better to do that than escape into the pages of a good book.

The Red Cross folks told us they won't accept books, but their faces changed when I said I live right up the street, my intent was to give these poor people something better to think about other than whether they still had homes, and that I was Stan Chambers' publisher. Hearing Stan's name, they brightened right up and welcomed us into the gym. It was surreal to see the gym where we'd watched countless basketball games while my daughter bounced around as a cheerleader years ago. It was a place of action and excitement.

Not now. It's eerily quiet. There are cots everywhere and the lights are low because most are trying to get some sleep. Everyone speaks in soft tones. Even the television is barely audible. Inside and out, the school looks like a war zone. Those we spoke to were upbeat and grateful for the books.

We had a small crowd around us as we unpacked the books and stacked them around the main television. It was a thrill to watch them paw through our many titles. Many touched our arms and gave us a soft thank you before wandering off. It was hard to keep a dry eye.

I'm so glad we did this.

3 comments:

Chumplet said...

I'm tearing up right now. What a wonderful gesture! I pray that there will be as little further damage as possible, and that you and your family remain safe.

Dreaming again said...

I found you through Dr. Dino.

Praying you stay safe!

Reading that you're a Trojan's fan, put you into my favorites.

(I have to say that quietly here in Oklahoma ... USC isn't exactly a favorite here. For me, they will always be the best!! Although, I must admit, when they beat the Sooners a few years back, I wasn't exactly quiet! *grin*)

Lynn Price said...

Thanks, Dreaming, and welcome. Yes, I'm afraid we bleed Cardinal and Gold in our household. Daughter is getting ready for her transfer interview next week at USC. Keeping fingers crossed.

As for the fires, ugh, they've been horrible. 65% containment is good. Very good. After a solid week, some residents are finally being allowed back to their neighborhoods.