Have you ever wondered how you would react if you were told a massive bushfire was bearing down on your house and that your whole community was at risk of being wiped out?
If you were told you had a few minutes to grab your most precious possessions – what would you take?
Where would you go?
How would you react?
Hopefully these are rhetorical questions for you, and once upon a time they might have been, but these past few weeks/months these questions have been real life for many in Australia.
But imagine that you were on the other side of the world while all this was happening – over 17000kms away – how would you feel?
This was us, in wet (at times), cold, green England, visiting our daughter and premature baby granddaughter while the fires were at their worst. We were addicted to social media, the RFS radio scanner, apps and news, trying to keep track of how Tumbarumba was faring.
Generous and caring
Richard Glover wrote a lovely piece in the Sydney Morning Herald a few weeks ago: Love and respect shine through in a time of crisis and cited some generous and caring examples that applied to his local community.
These examples could just have easily applied to my small town of Tumbarumba and nearby communities like Batlow. Batlow was told it was ‘undefendable’ and the whole town was required to evacuate as the fire was heading straight for them and would more than likely destroy everything in its path.
Tumbarumba residents were in a similar position, and many left while they had the opportunity, taking what they could with them.
We heard and watched all this unfold from afar and worried about our home, our town, our friends and those brave souls who stayed to defend.
The fire took on a life of its own, being called a beast and a monster, as it destroyed everything in its path, in a way not previously seen.
I can relate to what Richard Glover says in the article:
You might imagine that, at a time like this, people would become selfish, trying to protect their own place; worried about how their own sheds and homes and stock will emerge.
I’ve seen little evidence of that. Instead, every moment seems to be spent worried about someone else.Source
But, as Richard goes on to explain, it’s been the opposite. Within our Tumbarumba area, Facebook and social media has been full of people offering a bed to those who have been evacuated and have nowhere to go; people organising food for the valiant fire fighters, those who stayed behind and evacuation centres; offers of help to feed stock and pets; news is being passed around generously regardless of the usual friend circles; fire fighters and support crews are being lauded as the heroes they undoubtably are; shops are offering free food and services and there is a sense of comradeship rarely felt in general day to day life.
Our community has always been tight- knit and immensely supportive of anyone who needs help and this has just escalated by a million percent.
In my own examples as we were away with our daughter and new baby in England, our house was checked, a containment line was graded around the house and a friend went in and collected some photo albums and other special things for us. At short notice we couldn’t think of what to suggest he collect for us, apart from photos, a hard drive, and canvases on the walls.
My husband, the Mathematician, especially asked him to get our wedding album – we recently celebrated our 40th anniversary – so he gets some serious brownie points for this request!!
Thankfully, our house was spared but it’s still not over as the fires are still burning nearby. People weren’t allowed back into town for some time, and water still has to be boiled before use. For the first weeks of January there was no power, no internet, limited communications and the smoke was thick and heavy blanketing the town. It was deserted apart from emergency personnel and those who had stayed behind to defend it.
Home sweet home
We are now home from our two month trip and trying to come to terms with what’s happened. We are feeling discombobulated with the heat, flies, mosquitoes, light, smoke haze, hearing the stories and seeing the devastation around us. Seeing our house again was such a good feeling, but it was tempered by the fact that friends and others we know in town have lost everything.
The drive home through burnt out pine forests and native Australian bush was grim and stark with charred black being the predominant colour, instead of the variety of green we’re used to seeing.
Locals helping locals
Our town is rallying with many fundraising activities started and supported by generous, caring people from all over the world. I thought I’d list a few of the local fundraisers to show just how amazing our community is.
You can click on the links for more information or to donate. I know there are several celebrities raising millions of dollars but every little bit helps and these have been set up by locals keen to help locals in their time of need.
💰TUMBARUMBA ROTARY BUSHFIRE DONATIONS
All funds received will be distributed on an as needs basis, overseen by a panel of independent community leaders. Please mark donations “bushfire”.
The following bank details may be used – Bank: Bendigo, BSB: 633000, Account: 130534639, Name: Rotary Club of Tumbarumba Service Account
These have been set up by generous locals who will ensure all money raised will go to where it is needed most. Also many groups are organising collection points for household items needed for those who have lost everything. Everyone is doing their bit to help in their own way.
So in answer to the question in my title – people are reacting with gratitude, support and care. Hugs are the order of the day when greeting friends not seen for a while and kindness is everywhere.
Thanks go to everyone who had anything to do with saving our communities, we’d be lost without you.
Maybe you could consider visiting those communities devastated by bushfires in the coming months. Not to gawk, but to help by spending money, talking to locals and showing your support. They will need all the help they can get. The Empty Esky campaign is a great way to help out these towns.
Take care of each other and thanks for your support.
Linking up with Denyse for #Lifethisweek
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