Dear Colorado

I’m so sorry you’re going through this. We’ve had our differences, but wildfires are terrifying and devastating and I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

For those Coloradans who’ve lost homes and loved ones, I’m so deeply sorry. I know some of the heartbreak you’re dealing with and I know some of the nightmares you’ll face. If you can, find a support group or a professional counselor now. The next few weeks might be desperately hard, and leaning on the family and neighbors offering help might be enough. But it might not be, and that’s not the fault of you or your family and friends. I don’t know you or your lives, but I can tell you that the one-year anniversary could be more devastating that you might imagine, so having a support structure in place now will help then.

For those who were near the fires, please know that you have been through a trauma, too. People will tell you that you’re lucky even though you might feel more terrified and out of control than lucky. They’ll assume you’re fine because your narrow escape was a lack of actual damage.

But you might have some of the same post traumatic stress that other fire survivors have. I don’t pretend to know those whose homes were saved by the incredible efforts of firefighters, but I’m willing to guess that their lives might be consumed with fear and guilt for a while. You are survivors, too. There is no escaping a fire like this. Losing neighbors but not your own home or family is a blessing, but it’s a traumatizing experience, too. A lesson in “almost” and capriciousness and “what happens next time?” I’m glad you’re safe and that your houses still stand. I’m sorry about your loss of security and peace of mind.

Please give yourself the space to grieve. Please find a support group or a counselor to help you through, too. Fire victims have all manner of stories. Even those neighboring Colorado towns who feared the winds might come their way, watching for days every minute of television coverage have a story, will grieve for a while. Allow that, because it helps. I promise you won’t fall to pieces if you let the sadness take over for a part of every day.

Know that fire survivors all over the world feel for you this week, this month, this decade. You’ve joined a terrible, wrenching club. And I’m sorry to have you join us.

Fire fighters: I still don’t have the words and I don’t know that I ever will. With all the talk of heroism, embrace that you’re human. You, too, will have fear, make mistakes, feel guilt, and be emotionally exhausted. You’re allowed to grieve, too. This is what you’re trained for, but it’s scary. I still wish I could find the fire fighter overwhelmed by flames who had to ignore us as we fled down a burning fire escape. He looked so scared and I think we could all use a drink together. Tomorrow works for me.

May all of Colorado sleep well and get the emotional, financial, and spiritual help they need in the coming days and months. Fight the after effects of that bastard fire, survivors.

Be well, Colorado.