A wake-up call




Therewas probably a moment for all of us, in the hours and days that followed the outbreak of the Fourmile Canyon fire, in which we stopped and thought about what we’d throw in the car if it happened to us.


After all, most of us lead fairly secure, soft, comfortable lives, especially compared to people in Third World countries — hell, even compared to parts of the United States. We pick up our cappuccinos and lattes on the way to work, we are air-conditioned in our cars and homes, we sit on our couches and watch movies, we browse store aisles looking for what tastes good or what makes us look good. We play games on our iPhones and Tweet about our bad hair days. All in all, especially in the Boulder area, we have it pretty good.

Rarely are we faced with immediate peril, like some of those folks in Fourmile Canyon and surrounding areas faced on Sept. 6.

Rarely are we faced with immediate peril, like some of those folks in Fourmile Canyon and surrounding areas faced on Sept. 6.

I saw it on the faces of people who live west of Broadway and north of Spruce on Sept. 9, when the city warned those residents to fill up their cars with gas, trim their tall grass and be ready to evacuate because high winds were expected that night.

It was especially evident in the faces of those who had believed the inaccurate Tweets and Facebook posts that day announcing that parts of Boulder were, in fact, being evacuated. (What a testament to the continuing need for journalism training, not just tech training. But that’s a whole ’nother column.)

It was the face of fear — fear of losing all of our possessions that we hold so dear, fear of losing the house that has been in the family for years. It was an overdue reminder that, yes, even in sheltered Boulder, it’s not just those crazy hippies in the hills who face fire risk, it’s us lowlanders, too.

And then there’s the flood danger.

What would you take with you if you had 10 minutes to leave your home, perhaps forever?

I asked my kids, ages 9 and 6, that question and, predictably, they listed their toys du jour, which are Lego Star Wars figures. My wife suggested taking the cat and the laptop, where we have stored so many family photos and videos. I thought of the older photos, you know, the paper ones, the ones in albums.

It’s funny, the things we don’t think of taking. The things for which we work so hard every day to be able to afford. The furniture, appliances and electronics. The extra car. The jewelry.

Well, maybe we might grab the jewelry, if it had sentimental value, or was particularly expensive.

The point is, the first things we throw in the car are our loved ones and the things that remind us of our loved ones, past and present. The photo albums. The chest of trinkets handed down from grandmothers.

It gives you some perspective, once you force yourself to think about what truly matters.

It’s not about the things you can buy. It’s about the things you can’t replace.

Think about that the next time you are frustrated about work, the traffic, the finances, the in-laws, the taste of the coffee.

Usually, it can get a lot worse. It’s nice to know that, as evidenced by the outpouring of support shown in donations of time, supplies and money to the victims of the fires, there will be strong hands to help you after you pack the car.

Despite our increasing addiction to iPods, television, Facebook and other things that tend to keep us from getting out and meeting with our neighbors face to face, there is still a sense of community that we share.

It’s just that sometimes it takes a disaster to bring us together again.

And sometimes it takes a disaster to remind us what is really important in life.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com


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