Thursday, September 9, 2010

Our status and how to help

I apologize for not being able to respond individually to all of you who have called and emailed. Please know that each of you holds a special place in my heart. I am so grateful for your love, support and concern. I tried posting updates on Facebook, but the character limitation is just too restrictive. You know how verbose I can be! So, I thought I'd try using a blog for updates.

As many of you know, we first learned our house was gone by seeing it on a Denver TV station. It was also the front page picture in the Boulder newspaper on Tuesday. For those of you outside Boulder, if you've seen a picture of a slurry bomber and a house on fire, it was probably our house. We've heard from others that the national news media have been showing it. Not exactly the claim to fame I would have wanted.

On Monday night we stayed with our dear friends, Connie, Gary and Kyle. We then moved to the Residence Inn in Boulder. Almost all of yesterday (Wednesday) was spent looking for a rental house. It was a bizarre experience, racing around town to look at places as agents told us the rental possibilities were disappearing. We ran into some of our neighbors looking at the same houses. One family was not at home when the fire happened and lost almost all of the photos of their two little girls. Despite the race to find a place, we tried to stay focused that this wasn't a competition and everyone would find something that worked.

Erin was able to join us after school, and we found a place that she felt good about. It's in Dakota Ridge, facing the open space. Hopefully the insurance company will accept it and we'll be able to move in soon. Today (Thursday) will be spent meeting with our insurance person and meeting with a possible contractor about rebuilding. We haven't decided yet if we will rebuild, but we've been told to get started on the process.

Last night we attended a community meeting for those affected by the fire. There were hundreds of people in attendance. Joe Pelle, the sheriff, gave an excellent update on what was happening. Some of the evacuated families will be able to return to their homes today. However, Sunshine Canyon and a couple of others are still closed for the foreseeable future. Of the 20 mile perimeter of the fire, only 2 miles are under control. The sheriff also warned that the people who return will need to be prepared to leave again on short notice. We had rain on Wednesday, but the weather for today is supposed to be dry and windy which could send the fire in new directions.

The most important part of the evening was reconnecting with our neighbors. Sunshine Canyon is like a small town in the way that people know and support each other. Last night there were tears and hugs, but also a bit of joy and laughter. Some are still dealing with the uncertainty of not knowing if their house survived. One family received a picture taken just a couple of hours before showing their house still standing. Those whose houses are still there are struggling with the guilt that survivors feel. Many of us who know our houses are gone looked aged and worn. I'm not looking in the mirror any time soon.

Many, many people have asked how they can help. Truthfully at this point, there isn't much we need at the basic level of food and shelter. For now, our insurance company is taking care of us. If you want to do something, I would recommend either contributing to those less fortunate than us who didn't have insurance or to the Sunshine Fire Department. For general donations, you can call 211 in the Boulder area (866-760-6489 outside Boulder) or go to (click on focus area Fourmile Canyon Fire). I'm not sure how to donate directly to the Sunshine Fire Department, but there may be something on their website. Another option would be to contribute to the Pakistan aid efforts. I know it's trite, but we really do still have so much more than many people, so we're trying to stay focused on that perspective, while also knowing that we have to go through the grieving process.

While we're ok for now, I've been thinking of things that would comfort each of us as we go forward. Many of these are things that require time more than money, things that need to be created, researched, hunted down. Here are some examples:

- Erin had an aloe vera plant in a beautiful blue pot in her bathroom. While I could go buy another one, it's something I probably won't have time to do for awhile.

- All 3 of us had black belts from Tae Kwon Do. Erin and I saved ours, but I didn't know where Alan's was and so it was lost. I don't know how much it really means to him, but it might be nice if someone could contact Tran's and see if it's possible for us to replace it if he wants to.

- I lost all my recipes. While I can go buy new books, there are some favorite recipes that were given to me by some of you. Connie, I'm thinking veggie chili and Becky's salad, for instance. Getting copies of those recipes would be comforting for me.

We obviously don't need hundreds of aloe vera plants, so there needs to be some coordination. The entrepreneur in me instantly thinks "there should be an app for that!" Some kind of wish list app where people who have suffered some loss could post the little things that would help them once they are past Maslow's first level of food and shelter. Unfortunately I don't think I'll be creating that app anytime soon, but maybe there's something that exists that could be used.

The other thing we'll need in the future is information. For example, Vic, I'd love to talk to you about how to deal with the insurance company since I know you have recent experience. Another thing might be how to help the college admissions people understand what Erin is going through and how this might affect her app. She has to take the ACT on Saturday--she's been wonderfully strong and resilient through all of this, but staying focused for 4 hours to take a test might push that limit.

Finally, there's also the long term support. I know I've often wanted to help someone immediately but then I get back into life and forget that the person is still grieving weeks, months, years later. So, maybe just put on your calendar or into reQall (sorry I still have to do the plug) a reminder to contact Alan, Erin or myself in 3 weeks or 2 months or whenever.

One last thing. Last night after the rain there was a gorgeous full rainbow to the east of Boulder. We took it as a sign of hope.


  1. Deb - Thank you so much for this. It's a wonderful way for us to know what's going on, how to help, and how you are - and you're right - you can do it here without having to say it dozens of times. Your magnaminity is great and I wish you continued strength, courage, and in time - peace. With love, Dana

  2. Deb, reading this makes my heart ache for you but also makes me appreciate that through everything you are going through, you are still very much you. I know that you will take charge and lead your family and neighbors through this.

    I called Tran's and the belt is completely replaceable. They are supposed to call me back later today to figure out how to handle this. No need to stress on it now.

    Wishing you and your family comfort and love!
    Jessi and family

  3. Thanks for doing this Deb and I'll share the link with the many FastForward runners who've been asking. Please let me know Alan's running shoe (and clothing) sizes, as I'm sure we can get him those things ASAP so that he may enjoy a therapeutic run, as I know you'll be doing.
    I hope to see you for a couple of hours on Saturday morning if you can swing it.

  4. Hi!
    I would love to take Erin shopping for a new outfit or get her a gift certificate somewhere! Let me know!! So very sorry for your loss but so grateful you all are safe!!
    Sarah Vincent

  5. Hi Deb,
    Thank you for the update. We were wondering about you and your family. You are in our thoughts and prayers.

  6. Hi Deb, Alan and Erin,
    Thanks so much for your wonderfully candid blog, it is so totally you. Let me know when I can come up and go for an easy run with you. And thanks for putting it all in perspective. We all have a lot to be thankful for! I'll be keeping up with your blog!

  7. Deb,
    Your strength and character never cease to amaze me.

    I shared your story with my daughter who is also a senior this year - and asked her how she thought she would react in your situation. A heartfelt mother daughter conversation followed. We discussed the fact that Erin is also likely in the process of crafting her college essays. Perhaps by weaving this experience into her story she could find some solace and communicate the message to the admissions committees in a meaningful way. A good cry together might also help her sleep and release some tension before her test. Just some thoughts....

    Stay strong and thank you for letting us know what we can do to help.

  8. Deb,

    Thank you for sharing this with us. Your courage and strength are an inspiration. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make things eastier for your, Alan and Erin. My positive thoughts and love are with you.

    Love Lisa

  9. Deb...thanks for the update on your lives. I know this is difficult, but I also know it will pass and things will get better. You have a lot of friends who will be in this with you for the long haul.


  10. Deb,
    Your strength and positive attitude amaze me! We will be making a donation in your honor. I will look through my recipes as well! Were you able to gather most of your mementos/pictures? I will look on the internet for an app - I have used a couple in the past but most were directed to cancer patients and the like. We will be calling you for dinner or something soon, but know that you and your family are in our thoughts.

    Julie C

  11. We were so sorry to hear about your loss. You have always opened up your home to us, now it is our turn! If there is anything at all we can do, please let me know. I can make phone calls and run around for you. Anything that will free your time to just be together. Consider me your personal assistant! (I left you a message on your cellphone regarding the ACT Test). Your in our thoughts and prayers. Big hug! - Romy & The Boys

  12. Deb,
    Your resilience and attitude are a role model and so inspiring. Its amazing that having to deal with the day to day to reclaim your lives, you still find time to keep your community updated.

    As for Erin and the ACT's tomorrow, she is a product of you and Alan, the ability to focus and get the job done. If she does not perform well, I am sure you can negotiate with the ACT committee for a retest. They understand life happens to people.

    Your entrepreneurial skills could be best used to create an e-book for coping with disasters, (attitude, what to take etc) a close encounter. : )

    And in your response to how we can help time, money etc. I registered with the Red Cross and Boulder Mental health to provide critical incident debriefs, counseling etc. I just want to do something...

    Hang in there, you have a wonderful community of family, friends, and colleagues who would help in a nano-second.

    Love you.


  13. Deb,

    It is said that we find out what we are made of when we go through a crisis -- we can't always help what has happened, but we are in control of how we respond. And you are solid gold.

    We were so concerned when we didn't hear back and had an eerry feeling seeing that house on TV -- somehow knew it then. I'm sharing your blog with many friends and family around the country, who knew I was concerned for you. Know that good thoughts are being sent your way even from people who don't know you personally as I do. WE are here for you and Alan and Erin, not just now, but in the months to come.



  14. Hi Deb,

    I commented before but it seems to have been lost. Sorry if there's a dupe. My suggestion is that you just use use a wedding registry... sounds odd, maybe, but why not?? Who would mind?

    I was looking at this blog post about how to help people who've lost houses in fires:

    and it sounded like insurance just doesn't line up thing-for-thing. So why not just list the things you'd like have, just like you were a new couple starting out, on Amazon, or Bed, Bath, Beyond, or Peppercorn, or somewhere? That would avoid duplication. I am sure everyone would LOVE to be able to help out by getting a set of dishes or a nice mixing bowl or towels and then each of us would have something "in" your new place. It would help us to help you, and as you say, it might feel very comforting, even in your temporary place as well.

    Over the years, you have done more for people than you know. When I was a newly divorced mom, I had to find a job and I was pretty scared. In a different way, I felt like I had lost everything. I had many skills, and I was a smart person, but I didn't have a lot that looked that great on a resume. You took a chance on me.

    I'm sure there are tons of people out there who would love to help in any way they can.

    Here's the link to create a registry on Amazon:

    (it goes to my account, so you'd need to fill in your name instead).

    Of course, you'd have to take the time to select items, but you'd have to do that anyway, if you're going shopping.

    Hope this helps and is not too intrusive. Thoughts are with you. And I hope Erin did okay this weekend.

  15. Hi Deb:

    Sorry to hear about the loss. I was not online for last two days as we had long weekend in India and shocked as I read the blog link this morning. I know it is mighty difficult to miss something that is personal to us, specially the plants, the gifts and the recipes shared by friends and family.

    Hope you all get back to normalcy very soon. Best wishes from me and my family. --Subbu

  16. Hope today was a good day! :-)
    Post again when you can.


  17. Deb, we at TiE are with you and empathize with your current and impending challenges. Your courage to come out of this situation is laudable.

    Will do everything to ensure that efforts initiated by you to help entrepreneurs in the region continue in best earnest.

    Sincere best wishes,