September 4, 2011. I will never forget that day. It started like any other but quickly became something quite different and unexpected. That was the day I watched, at the rear of my property, a raging fire consume everything in its path. That was the day my wife and I had a mere 10 minutes to get as much of our belongings as possible into our car, including our two kids and cats. All the while knowing the fire was steadily making its way toward our home. And that was when I had to constantly reassure my 4 year old son and 6 year old daughter, who were barely old enough to understand what was happening, that it would be alright and that we had everything important in the car with us. Our family was intact and all were safe.
Fast forward about 10 months and we were finally back in our newly built home full of recently purchased things.
After seeing the home and everything inside, knowing it was all fresh and new, a friend of ours asked whether it was all worth it.
Was it worth it?
To be honest, the first thought in my head when that question was asked was how would my life be different if the fire hadn’t happened. If I hadn’t been swallowed up by that tragedy that stole my home, nearly every tangible memory I possessed, stripped the beauty from the land around me and filled my children and wife with fear.
Was it worth it?
It’s a question I haven’t been able to forget or move past. These events that happen in our lives spin us around and send us down a path we never would have taken. We meet people we never would have met, we share our lives with people we may have never been close enough to share with and we involve ourselves in projects and activities that never would have existed.
Was it worth it?
I never answered that question when it was asked. I didn’t have time to process an honest response. But I’m telling you today that life is worth it – worth happening – and that includes the joys as well as the tragedies. You can’t escape one or the other. And although that question of worth was directed at our new home and the contents inside – the truth is, for me it’s honestly not about the possessions, though there are those sentimental things I really miss. That question of worth makes me think about people and relationships.
Shortly after the fires started there was a group of us who stayed at the Lost Pines resort. It was a odd feeling. Homeless, staying out at that place. There were a number of us who knew we had lost our homes and others who were still waiting to hear whether their home was OK. And we were all together. Helping each other feel normal. And had we not been surrounded by that group of people it all would have been so very different. Far more difficult, far more painful. We had lost so much but at the same time gained something I believe is even more meaningful – the experience of being loved and supported by so many – friends, family, strangers. You can’t quantify an experience like that and you can’t put a value on those people in your life. They are invaluable. More so than a high school yearbook, a stack of old love letters or a box of heirloom photos. The people in our lives are everything.
So once the fire situation had settled and those of us who had lost our homes had found a place to rent for the time being, this idea of a run or a race began circulating. Three of us had thought of this independently and one night it came up in discussion and at that point it was like this tiny little snowball being pushed off the top of a steep hill. I know that’s a horrible metaphor for all you hardcore Texans but I grew up in Alaska so it’s a great visual for me. Anyways, that idea continued to grow and it turns out Terry Moore over at the YMCA had a similar idea that they had just begun working on. So Terry and I had a conversation and decided teaming up was a great idea.
So think about everything that took place to get to that point. The fires, the people, the ideas, and the connections. Everything had to be just so. Makes me think that maybe something greater is at play. And that’s a pretty amazing thing.
Was it worth it?
Collectively this group came together and harnessed our energy – everything we had inside – and channeled it into what became the Burning Pine Run. And as it was unfolding I don’t think many of us believed what was happening. We were all so caught up in what we were doing that we didn’t have time to take a moment and step back to see what we had done.
I remember standing at the starting line with an air horn raised about to start the race, and I saw two other members of the race committee, Kristi Nielsen and Rose Goldfarb, running toward me along side the road shouting “Wait! Wait! Don’t start the race!”
They didn’t want to miss it. Miss seeing all those people – everything we had worked toward. And standing there looking at all the runners, taking it all in – that was a one-of-a-kind moment. After it was all over and those of us working the race were sweaty and exhausted, another race committee member, Evan Moilan, came up and gave me a big hug and said, “We did it.” And he was right…we did it. For ourselves, the community, and the park. We did it.
September 2, 2012. I will never forget that day. That was the day I overcame the fire alongside a group of phenomenal people I absolutely love.
Was it worth it? Oh yeah…definitely.