After five years, I finally watched “Fire in Paradise” on Netflix, and it unleashed a flood of repressed memories. The pain, memories, and loss our community endured feel like a distant past, even though it’s just a brief span of time.
It’s difficult to fathom how my entire childhood was consumed by flames in mere hours. Paradise truly lived up to its name, with its charm, strong community and breathtaking nature. These thoughts often revisit me wherever I go.
With these memories resurfacing, I’m transported back to that fateful day, November 8, 2018. An evacuation call came at eight in the morning, and ash began to fall as the sky turned gray. It was just my dad, Emmy (my cat), and me at home. We split up, and I was supposed to meet him in Chico.
Emmy and I were alone in the car, with her howling and darting around as I sat stuck in traffic. I was on the phone with my dad when the line went dead, and the sky darkened. That’s when a kind lady in a nearby car gestured for me to join her. I quickly pulled over, grabbed Emmy, and fled to her car.
Thankfully, I wasn’t alone anymore. We sat in gridlock for three hours, surrounded by flames. It felt like being trapped in a pitch black snow globe with fire all around. Eventually, we escaped, and everything would be alright. For the next few months, we lived in various hotels during my first year of college. I suppressed the events of that year, not wanting to process the trauma.
However, not dealing with the trauma took a toll on my health the following year. I fell ill month to month and my body was trying to tell me something. It wasn’t until I connected the dots that I realized it was the fire’s impact. I was emotionally numb from it all. Once I confronted the trauma, I rarely got sick. It’s astonishing how much the body internalizes without us realizing.
Fast forward to today, I’ve graduated from UC Santa Barbara and now live in Los Angeles. I never would have imagined this five years ago. Despite all that happened, I persevered. I sometimes forget how deeply it affected me, but it remains an integral part of my story.
The one thing the fire couldn’t take from me was my connections with friends and family. They endured, and I know I can always rely on my loved ones. They’re a constant presence, regardless of life’s challenges.
If there’s one lesson to draw from this experience, it’s that possessions may vanish, but genuine connections last a lifetime.
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