Monday, 7 January 2013

The best and worst

I dread turning on the news or refreshing news websites and yet I do. Fires are burning and more are to come and although we're all trying to just get on with daily life, the tension is real and its palpable.

Three years ago I worked for an Australian Senator. Two days after Black Saturday tore through several beautiful Victorian towns, he asked to meet with survivors and hear their stories to lobby for financial aid for them. I went with him to Kinglake.

I will never forget driving up the swooping hill to the town that was no more. Meeting the two firefighters that fought back the flames - one of them a young girl really, just 19 - while 300 terrified people sheltered inside the fire station, little more than a tin shed.

Imagine the responsibility. Many of the 300 had run the gauntlet of the fire, were injured, in pain, frightened for their lives. And the two who stood between them and the flames with a dodgy generator, hoses and courage.. even now, their bravery makes me want to weep.

Driving down narrow roads and seeing crumpled swing sets and warped trampolines. In one street more than a dozen people died. It was quiet, deadly quiet, and the hazy smoke still hung in the air, a smell that seeped in to your clothes and smelt like fear and pain and death.

The CFA man that took us around answered lots of questions and sometimes none of us could speak at all.

That Saturday morning, there was a palpable anxiety amongst family, friends, neighbours. I can feel it building again. What lies ahead for us, who knows. My youngest is at school in the Dandenongs, the peace and beauty of the school surrounds and the nurturing qualities of the staff there  a big drawcard for many of us. She's been evacuated once before because of a fire. We're mindful it could happen again.

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