I saw America today.
Some days I wonder if the America I grew up with – the America of my grandparents – the America of our Founding Fathers and pioneers, still exists. Today, I know for sure that it does. I saw it in the faces of those that live in small communities in the Northern California foothills where a raging wildfire has been threatening their homes and their livelihoods.
These are communities like Foresthill (which is very aptly named being that it is in the middle of the forest and on a hill), Iowa Hill (by the way, a place where the residents live off the electrical grid), Pine Mountain and Yankee Jim.
These unique communities are only about 20 miles, as the crow flies, from where I live but their sense of self-reliance is from another time and place. Three-hundred and fifty people have had to evacuate their homes but only three to five people have been staying at the evacuation center set up at Foresthill High School. Why? Because those in these communities have opened their homes to the neighbors they don’t know as well as to the neighbors they do. In nearby towns like Colfax, Weimar, Applegate and Auburn, people are taking in and caring for the dogs, cats, birds, horses and goats that have been displaced by the fire. There are homemade signs up and down Foresthill Road thanking the over 2,000 fire personnel for their hard work and sacrifice.
Yes, America definitely exists in these amazing and unique communities but America is really not a place. America is a state of mind and a philosophy. It is where individualism and self-determination meet charity and generosity and cross at gratitude and humility. It has been a week since the fire broke out and with only one home destroyed and 60 percent containment, most of the evacuated residents will get to go home in the next day or so.
Life will soon return to normal but for me I will never forget the day I saw America.
Kelly Hiatt, Auburn