Looking Fear In The Face: Sad Anniversaries

Black Forest Fire, Channel 5 news, Colorado Springs

Black Forest Fire, Channel 5 news, Colorado Springs

Rescued horse: Ch. 11 news, Colo. Spgs.

Rescued horse: Ch. 11 news, Colo. Spgs.

Army plane spraying fire, Ch. 13 news, Colo. Spgs.

DC-10 spraying the fire,
Ch. 13 news, Colo. Spgs.

Last year, the Waldo Canyon Fire closed the Garden of the Gods, burnt the Flying W to the ground and destroyed 346 homes in Colorado Springs.  On the anniversary this year, fires again rage, this time in Black Forest. The numbers from last year have been passed, and firefighters, soldiers and pilots still fight the flames while residents are evacuated and animals are cared for by the kindness of strangers throughout the county.  Canon City and The Royal Gorge south of us also fight fires.

June 11 was the 5th anniversary of the tornado that ripped through Chapman, Kansas and destroyed much of the town. Our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren live in Chapman, and their 1893 house took a beating. Our granddaughter had been excited about starting 1st grade, but all three of the consolidated schools were gone.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross said: “The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.”

She describes what we’ve witnessed first hand, during the fires of Colorado, after the tornado in Kansas, and according to others’ observations in Oklahoma and throughout the country. Natural disasters and man-made tragedies cause horrific losses to property, life, health and hope. And yet, those who survive these disasters keep moving, one step at a time, and often emerge stronger, kinder, more grateful and hopeful than ever.

Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

And from J.R.R. Tolkien’s FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, we take hope for what will eventually follow:

All that is gold does not glitter, /  Not all those who wander are lost;  /

The old that is strong does not wither, / Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken, / A light from the shadows shall spring; /

Renewed shall be blade that was broken, / The crownless again shall be king.

Chapman house after tornado

Chapman house after tornado

Chapman house after major restoration.

Chapman house after major restoration.



Filed under lessons about life, memories for grandchildren, memories for great-grandchildren, special quotations, Spiritual connections, Things to be thankful for

60 responses to “Looking Fear In The Face: Sad Anniversaries

  1. juliabarrett

    Wow. It’s true, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger… sometimes. I knew Holocaust survivors in Israel who committed suicide 30-40 years after their liberation. Couldn’t live with the memories.
    I think it has a lot to do with the notion of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. It’s easier to cope with a random tragedy than deliberate extermination.
    And it depends upon your support system – what happens after the event. Do you end up in a Displaced Persons Camp or does a community rally around you?

    • You’re so right, Julia. Holocaust survivors who can’t live with the memories–and also those who struggle with survivor’s quilt–are in a very different category. With tornadoes and fires, even fires started by arsonists, the victims often form a close-knit group supported by others rallying around them to offer support and help. One of my favorite books that helped me understand the process of survival, especially for victims from the concentration camps, was Frankl’s MAN SEARCH FOR MEANING.

  2. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Restoration is a wonderful message, Marylin. Thanks so much. And what a wonderful house. No wonder you love to visit–in addition to the wonderful people of course!

    • After a fire, flood, hurricane or a tornado, it’s surprising how many victims go through Kubler-Ross’s stages of grief. The process of working through the stages and working to rebuild and recreate damaged homes helps the processes of renewal and healing. And, yes, the house received a wonderful second life that we all appreciate!

  3. Natural disasters will always be a part of the American landscape and facing fear is a hard way to prove one’s fortitude, but somehow we do. The house is beautiful; fewer trees, but that may be a good thing. Your quotes are perfect.

    • Thank you, Lynne. They’ve really missed all the trees around town, but it’s also opened up the view. Still, they’ve planted many red Ash trees and fruit trees, and they’re doing very well. It will take a long time for true shade to develop, but they’re hopeful.

  4. It seems like we’re having way too many sad anniversaries these days.

    • It does seem that way. Maybe we’re just more aware because the media covers the attacks and natural disasters in detail from everywhere in the world. But even on a personal level, it seems like we–and our family and friends–do face these sad anniversaries more often.

  5. I’m always amazed by the strength the victims of these disasters display during media interviews. The one thing they all say is at least they and their loved ones are alive and all of the “stuff” can be replaced. Love this post, Marylin!

    • Thanks, Jill. And you know, I really do believe the strength they display is genuine. Things are quickly prioritized, put into the right perspective, when you lose the “things” that seemed important, but in reality all the people you love are safe.

  6. A lovely post with well loved quotes but the part of your post that gives me the most joy is the Chapman photos, before and after. It says ‘All will be well”

    • Those photos, even five years after the top photo and more than 4 years after the bottom one, do give me hope, too. I watched my daughter and son-in-law take it one step at a time, holding each other’s hands and the hands of their children, and stay with it until the work was finished. The entire town seemed to pull together and help each other, and even though they’d lost so much, the residents strongly voted in favor of increasing taxes so all three of the consolidated schools would be rebuilt–in Chapman–which showed commitment and determination and hope.
      You’re right, those photos do say, “All will be well.”

      • A wonderful community spirit, it would seem.

      • Chapman really earned the name, “The Fighting Irish.”
        After all the town went through, when the high school was rebuilt, Notre Dame U. realized via the media coverage that the logo the schools had used since 1967 was the Fighting Leprechaun. Notre Dame sent a letter to the little town demanding it cease and desist using their logo.
        It was one of the cruelest cuts of all, but the community ended up holding a “design a new logo” contest and came up with a new (and actually better) logo and had it replace the old one on students’ and athletes’ sweatshirts, as well as the logo on the new gymnasium floor. It was an expense they could hardly afford, but the town did what they had to do and went on to focus on more important things for the students. Yes, Chapman has developed wonderful community spirit since the tornado.

      • Unreal! One would hope that in such situations a big university(?) would have been generous enough to gift the use of the name to a high school and offer free scholarships to local students as well. Never mind! Chapman survived anyway.

  7. Thank you for reminding us of hope

  8. molly

    Mom, as usual you tell the story or report the facts with such class and dignity. I, on the other hand, would quote one of my favorite country songs…”if you’re going through hell, keep on moving…don’t slow down…if you’re scared don’t show it…you might get out without the devil knowing you’re there.”
    Although going through the tornado was horrible, and the clean up was worse…I have a closer connection to my community then I ever would have.

    There really is a silver linning to most tragic events.

  9. You and Trevor were so grateful that your family was safe; you kept believing everything would be okay, that it all would work out. As you hoped for the silver lining you kept working and doing your best; you had some hard times, but you didn’t give up.
    You inspired me.

  10. dianabletter

    The post is, as usual, thought-provoking and timely. I am praying for all the people in Colorado now! So…is there a reason…or is there not to tragedy? We will never know.

  11. I think you’re right that we might never know.
    While it would appease some part of us as humans to know the reason now, it wouldn’t necessarily help us face the reality and do the physical, spiritual and emotional work that needs to be done.
    Which I suspect you already know, living in Israel. There’s more than enough sadness and discouragement and loss to go around, I’m afraid. But I’m also realizing that there’s courage, strength, determination and helpfulness in people everywhere, too.

  12. Dear Marylin, Blessings and prayers. Thank you for your excellent posts. Ellen

  13. A thought provoking post. I think your other commentors have said it all, but I’d like to add my admiration for the restoration and rebirth of the Chapman house – it takes guts and determination to stick with it – but what a beautiful outcome.

    • It was a long haul, Jenny. But amazing things helped along the way. One day when Molly arrived to work at the house, a mother and son (strangers) were raking the dirt where all the downed trees and house remnants had been removed. They’d driven to Chapman, wanting to somehow help, and they chose her yard to rake up nails and broken glass, etc. It was very touching that even strangers cared and wanted to help.

  14. Very thoughtful post Marylin, and a wonderful message for us all. I like the less personal, but tragic, big stories set against the very personal. Thank you.

  15. I’ve said this before (I think,) but I love reading comments from your family members. Those are the comments that really honor your mother’s life and validate your blog’s intentions.
    Kudos to you for every single thought you’ve shared here. Every time I leave your blog I’m richer for the experience..

    • Oh, that’s sweet, and I really appreciate it. Even when a post isn’t directly about something my mom has said or done, it is still indirectly influenced by her thinking, and the things she taught us by example.

  16. Amy

    Colorado is my favorite state and had lived there for years, I’m praying…

    • Thanks, Amy. We’ve passed the worst of it, at least for now. This time. Two summers in a row; but last year’s Waldo Canyon Fire was arson, and they haven’t caught the arsonist. That makes it doubly difficult.

  17. I had forgotten that you live in that area. Glad to hear the worst is over. I need to make a map for my office or computer desktop that pinpoints all my blogger friends. That way I can know right away who’s being affected by these disasters. It would also be a fun little visual of all the writers I know!

    • What a great idea, Darla!
      A big map over the desk with fancy little pins identifying where all our blogger friends live. Yes!
      The worst IS over, and we’re very grateful. We’re still in a drought, so many places in Colorado are in danger.

  18. Jane Thorne

    The golden links your family share Marylin are a great example of love, hope and endurance. X

    • They really are, Jane. We’ll read back through old posts and remember the events and the comments, and then we’ll start talking. Everyone in the family takes part in this.

  19. What a tale of misfortune poor people. Your quote from Eleanor Roosevelt is wonderful, Very inspiring

  20. Marylin HOPE Warner, that’s your new name methinks… Coz that’s what you do my sweet you look at the world and the harsh side of things from the plight of family and friends suffering through sickness and disease to the plight and sorrow of the ravaged, many through natural and unnatural disaster, and you give us all hope through your insights and thoughts that there is always HOPE that the situation will improve

    Take a bow Missy, you are a BRIGHT SHINY STAR

  21. Hmm…Hope is a nice middle name, better than my real one. You’re too generous with your praise, but I thank your for the Bright Shiny Star compliment, Tom. Today I REALLY needed it, and you made my day so much better.

  22. Hi Marylin,
    In spite of the disasters that occurred last year, you put a positive spin on it. When I saw (I’m assuming, Molly’s) new and improved abode, I thought, wow, a negative event turned positive.
    Tracy 🙂

    • Thanks, Tracy. It was a long haul and lots of patience and hard work, but in the end their 1893 farm house was saved and redone. It will take another decade for the trees to take off and make a difference, but they got to keep the house they love.

  23. I like Tom Stronach’s comment above – you do offer HOPE, Marilyn. I wish everyone could rise from the ashes like a Phoenix. I love your positive message about overcoming some of life’s blows.

    • Thank you, Judy. If I had been one whose house had been completely destroyed or I lost family or friends, I’m not sure my Phoenix wings could have lifted me above the ashes. But we are very grateful for what was saved and try not to dwell on what was lost.

  24. My heart goes out to the Colorado people facing wildfires again this year. We had terrible, horrible wildfires in 2003 in San Diego that burned down a quarter of the huge county (and over 1500 homes) and again in 2008. We just had a wildfire a few miles from our house yesterday and it got scary for a while, especially since it was pretty windy. Every time I smell and see that smoke, I wonder if we’ll have to evacuate. I hope Colorado gets a break soon.

    • Oh my gosh, but you’ve been threatened by some horrible fires, and not just once, but twice. Fires and tornados have the common talent of weaving in and out, destroying some homes but not other, and you can never predict what will happen. I’m glad for both of us that we’ve survived so far.

      • Isn’t it weird that some homes on any street will burn down while others won’t? And there’s really no logical explanation for it. This is the fourth time since I’ve lived here that there’s been a fire at the regional park next to our house. The worst fire burned down half the 6000 acre park so I hope that never happens again. Everybody who doesn’t live in San Diego asks me if I’m afraid of earthquakes. But really, it’s the wildfires that you have to worry about.

  25. Nancy Saltzman

    Beautiful column…as always.

  26. Thank you, Nancy. You are my shining star example of both Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ quote and Eleanor Roosevelt’s quote.

  27. Marilyn … I know you already have a bushel of these, but I nominated you for the Sunshine Award. Thank you again for nominating me for the Best Moment Award. The rules and my comments are on my blog: http://earth-rider.com/2013/06/20/thank-you-thank-you/

  28. I’m so glad I discovered your blog, though you make me cry with every post. I LOVE that quote from FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING. My life has been broken in some ways. I’m encouraged by your words.

    • I so glad if it helped you. The quote from FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING is one of my favorites, too. Welcome to “Things I Want to Tell My Mother.” I look forward to your participation!

  29. Moving, eloquent and beautiful post!

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