[My husband] Eric said, "I looked up and the moon was red. And I knew that was not okay!" And he turned around and saw the fire. He came in, grabbed the leashes for the dogs. He said, "Patricia, get up! Get dressed. We have to leave now!"
It sounded like a freight train. I looked up and the whole ridge had this massive red glow. It was just tremendous. I got out of my car I was hit by large fragments of ash. And the air was so hot. It was 1:30 in the morning and it was hot!
I assumed from the proximity of the fire when we left and how quickly it moved down the hill that the house was definitely gone. But there was this piece of me that really believed, or wanted to believe, that my house would be the lucky house. And then I thought, that's not very likely but maybe, just maybe — here's rational thinking for you! — my closet will still be intact! [laughs]. It was really hard [to lose a home]. It was actually a lot harder than I expected it to be.
[We left with] the clothes on our backs and our animals and each other. Some people lost their lives. We're fortunate in that regard. It’s your own personal test. And it will test your character. It's more of a test of your character than it is of your skill.
What’s most difficult is that our history has been wiped out. We can build a new home, but our history is erased. My daughter's childhood memories are gone. What I have left from my mother is gone. It's a lot to come to terms with.
The community so embraced us and we didn't see a single person out there who was not gracious and generous, who did not give us a bear hug when we just needed some support and some reassurance. It has really been a blessing. Sonoma County is a pretty special place to live.
It's an incredible opportunity to reimagine the structure, to reimagine life going forward for this community. It's gonna be okay. We're gonna get through this together. You know, that's the thing. We still got out together and it's gonna be okay.
What I think is really important is each of us has a story. And I think when you meet people, they want to tell their stories. It's been helpful to be given an opportunity to tell my story and I think there's healing in that. It's gonna take time.