"A family tree can wither if nobody tends its roots."


2020, Why Are You Testing Us?

by  Phyllis Zeck

 As if 2020 has not been traumatic enough, fire danger was thrown in to test our resilience. In September wildfires erupted and 40 mile an hour winds spread the Riverside fire dangerously close to our Clackamas County communities. This was historically the worst fire season Oregon has had on record. Towns to our south were being evacuated to Level 3-Go as our home was elevated to Level 1-Be Ready. The little purple houses on the map to the left shows my home as well as my family members. I had never been alerted that my residence was in danger of a wildfire and like many people was oblivious to what the threat actually meant to me. The first time the emergency warning went off on my phone I realized the severity of the danger we were in. Now I had to consider that my home may actually catch on fire, thoughts I was conveniently avoiding thinking about. 

Being ready meant we should video record our belongings in each of the rooms of our home as well as the outside the house. We gathered our most valuable papers and treasures. Well that was a heart stopper.  Where do I start? Of course I scooped up my precious ancestral treasures; Uncle Hank’s 100+ year old prayer book, grandpa Gilbert’s eye glasses and address book, mom’s Bible and Rosary, treasures purchased during my visit to Italy and albums of photos that had not yet been scanned. Lori and I also packed a few clothes. I thought I’d wait to pull papers out of my safe. When we stood back to look at the table I was stunned by the small amount I’d set aside as my most valuable and irreplaceable treasures. I reasoned that if we moved to level 2 surely I would be adding more items to the table. I’m so grateful to say that we did not progress above level 1. The first night brought a fitful rest and the next day I felt a little more relaxed. The smoke was too heavy for us to go outside but the winds had died down. By the following day we seemed to be out of danger and we said a prayer of thanks.

My great grandparents Pietro and Elvira would live on W Harrison St just a few miles from the fire 20 years later. The photo above is a post card of the corner of State and Madison streets (Chicago History Museum) after the Oct fire. Reading some of the articles from the Chicago Tribune is heart wrenching. The fire killed 300 people and destroyed more than 17,000 buildings spanning an area 4 miles long. October had been hot and dry and fires had been popping up throughout the city in the days leading up to the October 8th fire. The city’s waterworks burned on Oct 9th, cutting off that supply of water. 100,000 people were left homeless. Click to view a clipping showing a map of the area from The Philadelphia Inquirer 10_Oct_1871. You can enlarge the clipping to read the text.

On a happy note, Christmas is around the corner. I remember when I was a kid and the Sears toy catalog arrived my siblings and I would get out the scissors, paste and paper to start our wish list which was mailed to Santa Claus. Times have changed. My grandson Kingston and sister Lori are reading the Amazon Wish Book. All Kingston needs is a cell phone so he can text the QR code to Santa!



One Response to 2020, Why Are You Testing Us?

  1. 4 years ago by Val Ciolli Stockmar

    Don’t know how I missed this Oct 31 2020
    article. Thank goodness you, your family, your
    home and treasures were spared. We praise God and our ancestors who were watching over all of you. Stay safe and be well.


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