Santa Rosa Junior College student Kiani Bush’s next-door neighbor pounded on her aunt’s door at 1 a.m. on Oct. 9. Moments later her aunt burst into her room, telling her to pack a bag; they had to leave now.
The power was out so Bush, 20, used the flashlight on her phone to pack.
“My mindset in that moment was ‘grab what I need for tomorrow,’ because I had school and work the next day. I took my backpack and my work clothes,” Bush said. “Thankfully my aunt reminded me to grab my laptop, birth certificate, and passport. Everything else is gone now.”
Bush, her aunt, and uncle hurried into their cars and drove to the Windsor Walmart parking lot.
“Throughout the morning we were getting mixed information about what was happening,” she said. “Around 11 a.m. we finally got the direct confirmation that our entire neighborhood was gone. My stomach dropped, and I didn’t know how to react.”
Eventually Bush separated from her aunt and uncle, staying with her boyfriend’s family in Healdsburg. Her boyfriend’s mother took her shopping on Tuesday to buy basic necessities like shampoo and other toiletries.
“That’s the first time that we drove past Santa Rosa and I could see all the damage,” she said. The air was still really bad. Everything looked different.”
She received plenty of new clothes and overwhelming generosity from friends, but her perspective has shifted since the fire.
“There are a lot of sentimental things I wished I’d grabbed, like my dad’s poetry and my grandfather’s wooden cane. I lost some of my own poetry too,” Bush said.
She recently drove by her neighborhood that was once Mark West Estates.
“They weren’t letting people back in yet, but we could see from the outside and everything is completely flattened,” Bush said.
Bush is not sure if she can finish the semester at SRJC, where she studies social and behavioral sciences. She lost all her textbooks in the fire.
“When I left I thought I’d be coming back. Now I’m realizing I’m OK with not having very much,” Bush said. “I’m lucky to be alive. I’m lucky to have such loving and supportive people in my life.”