Letter: Surviving the storm, enduring more trauma

Encampments around Chico were under up to four-feet of water following the storm. Safe Space offered emergency shelter for two nights. The Hunger Trolley volunteers and I brought food for the 35 refugees and I checked in with Camp Fire survivors that I knew. One spoke of wading through knee-deep water to get to the evacuation team. She was worried about having to return to all of that water tomorrow. Her feet had only just dried.

Before leaving I looked around the room that  was somber and largely quiet. Many lay in fetal positions or with arms wrapped around their body. Some lay with their eyes open, staring blankly into distant space. The collective trauma upon trauma experienced by those in the room was thick.

Just outside the door I recognized another survivor. Gone was her usual smile and she sat tense in a chair, swimming in a jacket too large for her tiny frame. I spoke her name as I approached and she looked up at me bewildered until she recognized me. Her voice cracked under the strain of emotion, and described her losses. She was distraught at the thought of returning tomorrow, and didn’t know what to do. A lady nearby voiced the same concern.

These people barely survived this first storm of the season and we have a long winter ahead of us. Our city should construct the pallet shelters before the next storm. Waiting is simply a death sentence for some and more trauma for all.

— Jesica Giannola, Chico

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