On November 8, 2018, what came to be called the Camp Fire destroyed California’s beautiful town of Paradise in a single day, jumping from canyon to canyon, incinerating 19,000 structures, displacing nearly 50,000 people, and ultimately taking 85 lives. The scope of the destruction was almost unfathomable. Whole neighborhoods were reduced to ash and twisted metal, with surviving chimneys still standing as solemn tombstones. Utility poles hung precariously, burned and misshapen. The formerly majestic canopy of Ponderosa pines, redwood and fir stood charred and destroyed, a sea of giant black toothpicks. The fire touched every inch of the town, turning the once-verdant Paradise to a post-apocalyptic wasteland.The effect on the people of Paradise was devastating. The idyllic mountain community was suddenly scattered and shell-shocked. Some residents left for good, not wanting to return to the site of the tragedy. But many stayed, we rolled up our sleeves, and started sifting through the ashes. As the world watched and with the support of many, we began a process of putting the pieces of our town back together.
It was in the early days after the fire that we were first introduced to NewStories. They were chaotic and uncertain times, taking our first steps towards an unknown future. Newstories helped us find our footing. While many groups showed up with answers, NewStories showed up to ask questions. It was through the listening and the asking that we were able to identify our own unique path towards recovery and rebuilding and a new story for Paradise.
NewStories had an understanding and a patience for our experience that was missing from other agencies and groups that had also shown up in the wake of the disaster. Their process is a reflection of the greater work that is needed. Gather together, listen and share our experience, identify what is meaningful to us as a group and as individuals, name our work, take the next most efficient step.
Through working with Newstories we not only were able to identify the work that needed to be done but we are also able to identify ourselves in that work. We got to know ourselves in a deeper way and because that, the work is lasting and meaningful.