Malibu helps

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Adapted from a 1993 editorial. While just as relevant today as when it was written, it is proof positive that Malibu residents do not need to re-invent editorials where fire is concerned, we need only to check our files.

Fire rushing across the hills. Mountains of smoke billowing in the sky. A pink sun. Desperate families rushing to evacuate. Lines of cars seeking safety and shelter. Homes burning. Chimneys standing stark against the skyline like gravestones. Rubble. Frightening and familiar images then … and now.

In early November of 1993, more than 350 homes were destroyed in the Topanga Malibu fires, ours among them. This Sunday and Monday, those of us who had remained to rebuild in Malibu stayed in close contact from our evacuation sites. We had been members of Operation Recovery (an organization established immediately after the ’93 fire, by fire victims for fire victims – although we prefer to be called survivors). So much has happened in the intervening years: new homes, new babies and new neighbors. New friends made and old friends lost. Most of our “stuff” had been replaced, and time had done its job too, healing most, if not all wounds. Still, our thoughts and prayers were with others, the newest victims of California’s raging wild fires whose homes were burning even as we met. It was difficult to feel safe or comfortable, painfully reminded as we were of our own pain and confusion, and the difficulties we faced as we made our own first awkward steps toward recovery — an experience that we are facing yet again! While we were all reacting with our individual angst and anxiety (one never fully recovers from the trauma), we all acknowledged that we would never forget that seminal event which changed our lives forever, teaching us more than we ever wanted to know about loss and recovery, and more than we could ever have imagined about the love, generosity and support of a caring community.

Immediately after the Malibu fires of ’93, many of us had our 15 minutes of fame as the news media descended with their TV trucks, cameras and questions. We were stars for a day. Now, they’ve discovered us once again, this time, instead of seeking sad stories, they are asking us to share our “wisdom” with others and we have jumped at the chance. We are on a mission and they are helping us to achieve it: getting the word out that we have valuable experience to share and are willing and eager to help. We are offering one-on-one phone support and “buddies” for individuals who want to talk to someone who has “been there.”

It’s our turn to “give back,” to share those hard learned lessons and to become a caring community for others. We want and need to help and we are asking for your help as well. This is how:

€ Help us get the word out that we can and want to help

€ If you know of individuals, families or neighborhoods that could use our help, let us know or have them contact us

€ Donate money to the Red Cross — specify that it is for California fire victims and their families

€ If you can help or need help, please contact us by e-mail at agyork@malibutimes.com, or call The Malibu Times at 310.456.5507

The popular image of Malibu is that of a city of wealthy residents, celebrities and NIMBYs who are more interested in their own luxury, comfort and privacy than in a being part of a caring community. We know from first hand experience how wrong this is. And we know that you will open up your hearts to these new fire victims as you did to us.