Love and Hope After the Camp Fire: The Stories Behind the Numbers

Northwest  |  April 25, 2019
TzuchiUSA_camp-fire The Stories Behind the Numbers
Author: Zhagn Jin-Bao (Zhu Bin) Photo: Liao Qiong-Yu, Rong Chang-ming, Chen Zheng-Dao

If only there were not so many stories…

Some people have asked me how many stories about the Camp Fire I wrote in the past month.

I counted more than 30 stories. Every numerical figure related to the Camp Fire gives me mixed feelings.

I think back to that fateful morning on November 8th, when the Camp Fire burned over 150,000 acres of land, destroyed 18,000 homes, and caused 86 deaths. By that same afternoon, tens of thousands of survivors relocated to the nearby city of Chico. In the nights that followed, thousands of families were forced to live in tents in the parking lots of various supermarkets.

If only there weren’t so many numbers…

At first, I couldn’t bear to look at the stories behind those numbers, because there were too many tears and heartbroken tales.

I took a bus from San Jose to Chico’s Disaster Recovery Center. After the four hour ride, I realized that Tzu Chi volunteers had already begun helping the survivors before my arrival. They were either waiting by their working tables or standing before the cameras, most of whom were in tears, or breathing deep sighs of sorrow.

Every scene I’ve witnessed in the front lines of the disaster relief work kept coming to mind whenever I was on the bus, or at home. I can feel their pain, panic, shock, and sadness. They, however, stayed strong and moved on.

So, I wrote these stories.

By writing down these stories, I hope in the future we will never forget – that these words will remind us of the past, and every touching moment in between. I hope we can pass down the love, help, warmness, and hope to all people, just as we have passed them on to survivors of the Camp Fire.

I write quite often. At the beginning of 2018, I planned to write stories every week. And yet, I was surprised by the number of stories I managed to write about the Camp Fire. For the last month in 2018 until the new year, I was almost buried in these stories.

I couldn’t imagine nor assume what types of stories will occur in 2019. There are too many unpredictable things that can happen in life – the Camp Fire being only one of them. The future sometimes looks like the morning fog during a Northern California winter.

Even though there’s uncertainty, I still have to move forward. Step-by-step, I wrote down the stories: my stories, the many stories of Camp Fire. While on the surface they may seem like tales of destruction, loss, and grief, they are actually stories about the happiness of survival, mixed with the sadness of loss. These are stories entwined by love and hope.

I couldn’t imagine nor assume what types of story will happen in 2019. There’re too many unpredictable things that happen in life, the Camp Fire being only one of them. The future sometimes looks like the morning fog in a Northern California winter. 

Even though there’s uncertainty, I still have to move forward. Step by step, I wrote down the stories, my stories, the many stories of Camp Fire. While on the surface they may seem like tales of destruction, loss and grief, they are actually stories about the happiness of survival, mixed with the sadness of loss. These are the stories connected by love and hope. 

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