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Todd Weitzenberg is a physician with Kaiser Permanente and an elite-level bike racer; he lived up on Fountaingrove.

I was in Davis [shortly after the fires]; my buddy does a charity golf tournament…and I thought, ‘It’ll be fun to get away for a day, because I won’t have to think about it and I won’t have to talk about it.’ And then he introduced me to everybody there as, “My buddy Todd from Santa Rosa,” and they’d all go, ”Oh hey, oh my God.”

So I was more of a freak show out there than I am here. Here, at least, they’re like, ”Hey, how’s it going?” ”Oh it’s good.” ”House burn down?” “Yeah, mine too.”’ “Did you talk to your insurance?” You don’t have to go through this, ”Oh, I’m so sorry.” I’m so sick of talking about it. Here it affected everybody. There’s no one who hasn’t been touched. It reminds me of what I imagine it would have been like during wartime, where everyone lost a son or a daughter or a child. Here, the shock factor has worn off and now we’re all at the, “Okay we’ve grieved, we’ve mourned. Rebuild. Heads up, let’s go” stage.

I thought that going out there would be sort of a step forward and a break but it was almost a setback. Because out there everybody is still like, “Oh I haven’t met somebody who actually had their house burn down; what was it like?”

“I go out to run an errand and I still drive back towards my house. I still think, ‘Oh we have one of those—oh wait, no we don’t.’”

And I was like, “I’m out here to golf and drink beer.” I came to see my son, support my friend, raise money for a good cause, hit golf balls and drink beer. I didn’t want to be a side show.

I ended up just going out and sitting on a golf cart after a while. That’s kind of where we are right now in this process. In the beginning you’re like, “This is horrible! This is tragic!” It’s like getting punched in the gut.

In this weird, sick way it was almost liberating to get rid of all this stuff, and then be able to start over. You realize, “Boy, I only really need three shirts, I don’t need 20 shirts.”

You never think it’s gonna be you. It’s always someone else. And now it’s me. And now my life will never be the same. It’s gone; wiped away in an instant. I’ve learned a lot about tragedy and helping people. The people who text me and say, ”Man I’m thinking about you, what can I do?” It’s like, you did it. You texted me and told me you were thinking about me. That makes me feel important. And I can make it through. That’s all I need.