A Tale of Two Bryans: A Poignant Story of Two Camp Fire Disaster Survivors

Northwest  |  March 8, 2019

“I came to say thank you!”

“Master Cheng Yen, Thank you!” This phrase was spoken in Chinese by the security guard to the volunteers standing at the doorway of the disaster relief center. The security guard’s name is Bryan Merritt. He had learned the phrase from the volunteers. While he stumbled with the pronunciation, there was sincerity in his expression.

“This is a heartfelt thanks from me to express how I feel about Tzu Chi volunteers gathering at the Disaster Relief Center to pass out blankets, cash cards, and provide care to the evacuees,” Bryan added.

Bryan has been responsible for security at the Disaster Relief Center (DRC) ever since its opening. He sees many different volunteer groups on a daily basis at the center, but notes that Tzu Chi volunteers appear to provide what is most needed — extensive care and support for the evacuees. He learned more from volunteers about Tzu Chi as a Buddhist charitable organization, and now has a better understanding of Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s compassionate mission for helping those in need.

Meanwhile, another Bryan, the evacuee Bryan Manzo, also expressed his gratitude. He returned to the DRC to show appreciation for Tzu Chi after receiving his cash card and bamboo bank. He was touched by how much this Buddhist charitable organization, of which he had no knowledge before, contributed to the community.

“I came to say thank you!”

Bryan had not been overly concerned when the forest fire first started, because occasional outbreaks of fire in the mountains, especially around the autumn and winter seasons, were not uncommon.

Little did he know, this forest fire would spread completely out of control, destroying countless homes and making national news as the worst fire in California’s history. However, even more surprising to him was that during this urgent time of need, he would receive so much help from an obscure Buddhist charity.

Clutching the bamboo bank tightly in his hands, he said to the volunteers, “I will share my experiences with Tzu Chi with my friends and invite them to visit here. I hope through everyone’s love and generous support that the bamboo bank will be filled up very quickly. My hope is that you will still be here when I come back with my friends and a full bamboo bank.”

It’s a story of two Bryans with different backgrounds, each with a different Camp Fire story, but find commonality in their experiences with Tzu Chi. Every person who has stopped by Tzu Chi in the Disaster Relief Center relays the same message:

I came to say thank you!

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