Sometimes little, ordinary things can mean a lot. Little things like getting your clothes washed.
Take Debbie Medica. Her home in Paradise, California was destroyed by the wildfire that swept through the area. She fled with little more than the clothes on her back and what few things she could grab as she ran from the house.
“We were told to get out, and we didn’t waste time,” she said. “It was nothing but chaos with the fire coming our way.”
She was able to get her dog Mollie into the car but dealing with her cat Chewy was a whole different matter. She’s finally accepted the fact that her cat probably didn’t make it but she still holds a faint hope that somehow it Chewy survived.
“I know she’s lost, but I keep thinking maybe, just maybe,” Debbie explained. “She freaked with the smell in the air and ran off.”
At the Red Cross shelter in Chico, Debbie sits on her cot, trying to come to terms with what happened.
“I try to stay cool but I do fall apart from time to time especially when small things happen, but I’m not alone. I know that,” she said.
Debbie is trying to keep her sense of humor as she talks about how before the fire she was planning to declutter the home where she had lived a dozen years.
“I was thinking how I needed to get rid of a lot of the stuff. Oh well, be careful what you wish for,” she said.
As Debbie talked, Red Cross volunteer Kathy Grochowski came up and told her that a local laundry service was offering to clean the clothes of residents and handed her a plastic bag to put her clothes in.
For the first time in a long time, Debbie smiled as she dropped her clothes in the bag, including her favorite jacket.
“It’ll be nice to have it clean it again,” she said. “I’d like to get that smoke smell out.”
Kathy, who’s from Owensboro, Kentucky, said that something as simple as clean clothes can mean a lot to those like Debbie who have suffered so much. Washed and folded, the clothes were returned the next day.
“Anything to make their day a little better and more normal is good for their recovery,” she said. “They’ve been through so much.”
Story and Photos by Carl Manning, American Red Cross volunteer