Tragedy Puts Life In Perspective


As I turned down the road into my subdivision I could hear the siren’s blaring from the fire trucks that were making there way down the winding road. It was heading in the opposite direction out of my subdivision as I pulled up to the gate. A large plumb of smoke was already cascading upward.  “Where is the fire I asked the security guard?” “I am not sure, maybe Waldo Canyon” he said. From the looks of it, it was already well on its way, and very close to the top of our subdivision which was located in the foothills of Colorado Springs.

I had been hiking in Williams Canyon that morning, very close to the intersection of the trail to Waldo Canyon where they believe the fire started. But because of the steepness of the terrain, I didn’t see or smell the smoke until arriving home. Earlier in the day, as we hiked in the canyon, I was struck by how unseasonably hot it was, and not a cloud in the sky. In fact, the sky was still perfectly blue by 11:30 am when we began our descent down the mountain, which was very untypical in the Colorado mountains which are known for there mid afternoon showers and lightning. We turned around because of the heat. And in retrospect, I am glad I did.

After getting home, I began to make lunch, very aware of the large smoke cloud  growing quickly behind my house, but sure that if there was an immediate need for evacuation, they would let us know. While the steaks were grilling I made a call to security to see if there was any news. “We are in a pre-evacuation status right now, if we need to evacuate they will do a reverse 911 call.” The call never came.

I got two calls from friends letting me know what the fire looked like from their section of town and checking to make sure I was actually in town. Thankfully I was having returned from a business trip late the evening before.

Sensing that this fire was likely to escalate quickly, I began to prepare. So, in a matter of a half hour, I packed three days worth of clothes, toiletries, important papers and  memorabilia into the car. I also secured my laptop and back up disk, some work papers and then secured the most important nonreplicable things in a closet in the basement. All along just praying that they would survive the fire. As I packed my belongings, I found myself doing a bit of a self-assessment of what was most important. I thought about the friendships in my life where there had been conflicts, and despite best efforts there was no reconciliation. That time, although short, was quite profound. I thought to myself, everyone should be required to do this periodically, to keep things in perspective. I found myself reflecting on the memories of the good times and wondering why even though we had forgiven one another, we hadn’t reconciled. When you are forced to prioritize what to take with you when your home and life is threatened, you realize people are what really matters.

If we really believe that people and relationships are the only thing that matters why is it that we allow relationships and friendships to be destroyed? When you are in the throws of a natural disaster so destructive as the fires of Colorado, why can’t we see that we would be heart broken if something tragic happened to those people we once called friends.

What this tragedy has showed me, is that life is short. There were 347 homes destroyed and three deaths. It could have been worse. None of us knows how much time we have. We need to live as if today is our last day on this earth. Although I have reached out before and tried to reconcile with people in my life, this tragedy has given me a fresh perspective. I will reach out and try to reconcile one more time.

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