One community one year later

Adeira Sherpa and Dakota McGranahan, Co-Editors-In-Chief

Community members gathered on a blocked-off Hopper Avenue on Oct. 9 for the “One Year Remembrance Gathering” in observation of the Tubb’s fire that burned more than 5,000 homes and killed more than 22 people in 2017.

The fire burned nearly 1,300 homes in the Coffey Park neighborhood. Out of the ashes came Coffey Strong, a non-profit organization with a mission to facilitate quick reconstruction.

Dakota McGranahan
Multiple news publications from Sonoma County attended the event to revisit the many stories published last October.

Priding themselves on being created by Coffey Park residents, the organization alleviates the burden of building and insurance costs as well as emotional support services. 

Pamela Van Halsema, Coffey Strong president, stressed the importance of community throughout the stressful and often aggravating rebuilding process. “We need to take this night to set aside the busyness of building and the headaches of insurance. We need this one chance to be together to be quiet and remember what was lost and honor one another in the community.”

Community members embraced each other as Van Halsema began the event, reciting two poems, “Santiago Drive Neighbor,” by Amy Marlar and Starview Drive Neighbor,” by Curtis Martin.  

Residents brought old house keys and tied them to a commemorative wall and created luminaries in front of a revitalized “Coffey Strong” sign.

Five Coffey Park residents lost their lives in October’s fires. A moment of silence was held for each followed by the playing of Tom Anderson’s “Da Slockit Light” by a string trio.

Three cherry trees were planted on Hopper in memoriam of the victims Karen Aycock, Valerie Lynn Evans, Carol Collins-Swasey, Marjorie ‘Marnie’ Schwartz and Tamara Latrice Thomas.

“We have this moment to help us look to the future when our neighborhood will be whole again, when the park will be green again, and we’re going to sit on the front porches we are building and we are going to greet each other by name because we know each other now,” Van Halsema said.

Dakota McGranahan
A memoriam was erected to honor the Coffey Park residents who died during the Tubbs Fire last year.