Remember the week following 9/11? When it seemed like every car you saw proudly displayed an American flag decal on the bumper? Or how every house had a flag planted in the front lawn? The entire country rallied together and unified as one red, white and blue force of stars and stripes. Remember how long that lasted?
The North Bay wildfires may be gone. The smoke lingering in the air will soon depart and like clockwork, our normal routines will return. Everyone affected by the wildfires’ unforeseen destruction will carry a multitude of unanswered questions in the days, months and years to come. The main question on our minds: When the smoke clears, will the love in the air still be just as thick?
The overwhelming amount of generosity and resiliency within the community is awe-inspiring, but how long can that level of support and togetherness sustain itself before we denigrate back to the me-first mentality that afflicts us all?
Are we still intrigued by Las Vegas? Is anyone still worried about what’s going on in Houston? Does anyone even care that Puerto Rico is practically living in the stone age?
We live in a hyper-digital age of trending news stories. When disaster strikes and tragedy hits, we consume it like the release of the new season of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Ritualistic obsession for a week and then we move on to the latest release.
Disasters are not a trending news story. They are a disaster. Community unification in the form of disaster relief is not a trend. Community unification should be the constant that existed before and remains after.
How long will those who do not play a central role in the community care about what’s going on in Sonoma County? We, the community, cannot afford to wait around to find out. We need to take ownership of the disaster, the recovery and the rebuild. No one is going to do this for us but ourselves. Our tragedy is not going into syndication. When the North Bay wildfires lose their appeal as a trending news story and the funds from the campaigns run out, where will we be? When the next disaster hits and takes over as the latest trending news story, our community will be old news to everyone, not a part of the community.
We must think local and act local. We must maintain this unification for the years to come in the long road to recovery. The wildfires may have only lasted for a week and a half, but the fallout will extend for years to come.
It’s up to us, the community and SRJC in particular, to step up and take the reigns on enacting the changes and policies necessary to fully recover. In the words of our president, Dr. Frank Chong, “SRJC is training the people who will rebuild homes, rebuild the community and rebuild our lives.”
Let’s step up Bear Cubs and keep the love in the air for the long haul. We’re going to need it.