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From Yesterday to Today: Rising From the Ashes

How It Works

If you are new to this series, this is how it works: you join me for a time travel trip back to the 60’s. There’s no need to worry. I’ve made this trip, safely, a number of times, and I’m still in one piece. I promise to get you back to the present in a timely manner.

Join me, then, on my porch, for a trip back to 1960.

Have a seat on our front porch, 2021

Have a seat on our front porch, 2021

A Quiet Night Ablaze

I was twelve that year, 1960, a 7th Grader if my math is correct. It was late November, dark early, one of a seemingly endless streak of obsidian, chilled nights that winter. The television was on, no doubt the news, a staple in our household at dinnertime, when sirens could be heard approaching from the darkness. Within a minute the source of those sirens screamed past our home, an oddity for sure, for we lived on a quiet residential street.

We left the dinner table, me, my mother, my father, grabbed coats, raced out the front door, and looked north. A block away two fire trucks were parked, red lights illuminating the night, and firemen raced to uncoil their hoses as a home burned, the home of a childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. Thompson.

Flames licked the night, bright orange and red fingers reaching into the darkness, and by the time we had walked that one block the entire roof was engulfed. The Thompsons were standing on the curb, fifty feet or so from their home, and neighbors were around them consoling them, all standing in shock, the hopes and dreams of a young couple gone in the time it took Walter Cronkite to tell the nation about the latest election news.

What I remember most about that incident was the look of profound sadness on the faces of the Thompsons. Their day had been completely normal until a coat, hung too close to a wall heater, had caught fire, and then all of their worldly possessions had disappeared.

It happened so quickly!

Trip back to 1960, my childhood home.

Trip back to 1960, my childhood home.

NOVEMBER 8, 2018

I was thinking about the Thompson’s loss the other night as I watched a documentary about the Camp Fire, which happened on November 8, 2018, a fire which destroyed 90% of the California town of Paradise.

At 6:33 a.m. a fire was reported along Camp Creek Road, near a power station, a full twenty miles from the city of Paradise, a city of some 26,000 residents. By 8:00 a.m., the fire, fueled by 50 mph winds, had arrived in the town.

By noon, 95% of Paradise was destroyed. 85 people lost their lives. Nearly 19,000 buildings were destroyed.

In one morning, a morning like thousands of others, parents waking up their kids for school, adults getting ready for a day of work, plans being made, appointments to be met, groceries to be purchased, dogs to be walked . . . and then it was all gone, and along with the physical destruction, the hopes and dreams of thousands, the lifestyles of thousands, also gone.

Watching that documentary brought it all back, the helplessness of that night long ago, Uncle Walter sharing the news with us all, as the uncaring hand of chance reached out and forever altered the lives of a young couple.

A quiet residential street during the pandemic.

A quiet residential street during the pandemic.


Turn on the news and see the similarities in 2020. Uncle Walter is long gone, but new anchors talk to us about the losses, over 300,000 and still rising, they tell us about the homes foreclosed and the jobs lost, tens-of-millions, the small businesses going under, and they show us the faces of those who have come face-to-face with perhaps their greatest fears, their hopes and dreams and plans gone, the blink of an eye.

And those losses multiply, spread out like the tentacles of some Antediluvian monster, grasping neighborhoods, grasping towns, eventually affecting damned near anyone with a pulse in the Good Old United States – and beyond.

Just that quickly! One morning, all is well, the next some news segment about some virus, no need to be concerned, everything in under control, fast-forward three months and bread lines are forming and society comes to a screeching halt.

Look closely at the faces on the news. Hell, don’t bother with the news, look closely at your fellow citizens. They have “faced the elephant.” They have realized their frailties. They now understand, all too well, how quickly it can all disappear.

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Who was the First Lady who said it “takes a village?” Was that Barbara Bush? Clinton? Makes no difference who coined it, but the meaning makes all the difference.

Shortly after the Thompsons lost their home, the local church stepped up with food and clothing. A neighbor allowed the young couple to live in a spare bedroom of her home until they could find suitable living arrangements. Another neighbor offered them a spare vehicle to drive as long as they needed it.

The neighborhood took care of their own.

Shortly after the Camp Creek fire, neighboring communities did what neighboring communities should do. They offered food and water and spare bedrooms and trailers. Churches rode to the rescue. The Red Cross did what the Red Cross always does.

The communities took care of their own.

And now it’s our turn!

Truth be told, I have practically zero faith in the Federal government, but I have a ton of faith in communities and neighborhoods and individuals. I’ve seen it too many times, someone hurting, someone grasping for a lifeline, and a neighbor steps up, reaches out a hand, and provides much-needed support, in whatever way possible. It isn’t always monetary. It isn’t always a place to spend the night, or a spare vehicle. It is mind-blowing how important a simple hug can be. It is beyond comprehension, the healing power of a smile and a kind word.

We need to step up, during this pandemic and beyond, and do whatever we can do to help our neighbors, because I guaran-damn-tee it, some of them are hurting. The monster’s tentacles are reaching out, daily, affecting someone’s lives. The fingers of blaze are licking into the night, destroying and charring lives forever. And we all have the ability to help.

Reaching out and helping one another during a time of need.

Welcome Back to 2021

I hope you didn’t suffer any ill-effects from that quick trip back in time.

Maybe my childhood was an anomaly. Maybe the way I was raised was not the norm. I don’t know. All I know is I was raised to help others when they are hurting, and to do less is a testament for my character failing.

We will get through this. 2021 will be brighter for millions, but for those who suffered unimaginable loss in 2020, recovery will not happen overnight. That kind of loss clings to a human’s soul, and darkens the brightest of days. It will take a village to usher in the light again. It takes a village to set the stage for the Phoenix to rise from the pyre, to spread its wings, and fly once again.

It shouldn’t be that hard to do, not for the self-proclaimed Greatest Nation on Earth. I say it’s high-time we step up and prove that we are; otherwise we are nothing more than a loud-mouthed kid, on the playground, ranting to the winds.

2021 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)


Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 11, 2021:

Thanks so much, Li-Jen, and Happy New Year to you. If I give strength to anyone, I am a happy writer. Best wishes to you always!

Li-Jen Hew on January 11, 2021:

Hi Bill, Happy New Year to you and your family. Inspiring that you're able to keep positive. How unfortunate it is when losses come unexpectedly. You're right, we should help each other. This article gives strength to those who are losing hope. Thank you for sharing!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 08, 2021:

Thank you Manatita! I am humbled and grateful.

manatita44 from london on January 07, 2021:

A 'teary' one. Told so well ... so appealingly! It is a victory to Love!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2021:

We are doing the same thing, Flourish! We have been very fortunate during this pandemic and economic crash, so it seems only fair to give to others.

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2021:

It was a lovely rant, Marlene, and I totally agree with you. We writers have voices and they must be heard. Thank you for the pep talk, my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2021:

It sure should be, Peggy, and perhaps it is on the whole, but it sure seems random to me. Maybe I just need to get out more, eh?

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2021:

I sure hope so, Linda, because it would be nice to not have to reminisce in order to remember what it looks like i.e. compassion. :) Thanks my friend!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2021:

I don't have an answer to your question, Denise, but it makes me sad that it's true.

I'm happy to hear about your cousin moving into a new home. That's a sign of hope to me.

Blessings always


FlourishAnyway from USA on January 07, 2021:

It was Hillary Clinton who said that quote because I recall how she caught hell for it. I have been digging deep donating like never before donating to my local nonprofit spay/neuter clinic to fund free services for those who cannot afford it. I figure that my family is fortunate enough not to be hurting financially so I give like never before. I also informally help some people in my life and try to give much bigger tips to service providers than before.

Marlene Bertrand from USA on January 06, 2021:

All I can say is I agree with you. We need to stand up and shout! And, more than that, we need to use our talents to DO more. As writers, we can make our voices heard. We can write letters to the political powers and make a noise as they've never heard. I am a letter-writer, but I am only one writer. Imagine the force of a million writers bombarding the universe with letters. There is power in numbers. I am done ranting now!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 06, 2021:

Hi Bill,

This article is an excellent one of how we can all do our part to help one another during times of crisis. It should not take a crisis to spark that kind of caring and support. It should be an everyday action on our part. Thanks for sharing your vivid memory with us. Perhaps it will get people to thinking!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on January 06, 2021:

Bill, I love that sense of community, something I feel we've been lacking for quite some time. If one thing positive can come of this pandemic, perhaps it's all of us (re)learning to reach out and help one another.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 06, 2021:

My cousin and her husband barely made it out of Paradise with the flames licking at their tale pipe. It's been two years and finally, they have rebuilt their home and moved in just last month. They mourn for two of their cats who were too scared to come out from under the bed and they had to leave them. I can't imagine. But you are right about us being the kind of neighbors we were brought up to be. The kind of neighbors who see a need and do something about it. We still have that in us, why don't more of us do it?



Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2021:

Pamela, if I could change on life, wouldn't that be something special? Thank you my friend!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 06, 2021:

Losing everything like the Thompsons is horrible, and it does happen so quickly. Neighbors did help each other during that time in my neighborhood too. And, I agree with you that we should do exacly that. This is a very good article, Bill. Maybe you can change some lives!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2021:

You're just a big old softy, Eric, and I love ya for it! Thanks buddy!

Bill Holland (author) from Olympia, WA on January 06, 2021:

Rosina, it seems to me it takes much less effort to be kind to someone than mean to them. Makes me wonder why we don't do more of it. :) Thank you!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on January 06, 2021:

That is so nice of you to bring me to tears first thing in the morning. But your wonderful message is not lost on me.

Rosina S Khan on January 06, 2021:

Yes, I agree we should help our neighborhood and communities and reach out to them. It doesn't have to be something very big- it can be a simple hug, smile or a kind word. Such a little courtesy can mean a lot to the people in need. Thank you, Bill, for sharing this. A wonderful Wednesday to you.

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