As the pandemic disrupted our lives, we withdrew, many staying home. Society, as we knew it, came to an abrupt halt. But the News-Times continued to go out on Wednesdays and Fridays, so my life remained much the same.
The streets were quiet for months, but there was always news, not much of it good. I focused on those rising to meet the challenge to help others in our community. I met many who were addressing the immediate need to provide food to those who were hungry. It was amazing to see the way government and private agencies, businesses, the schools and our neighbors worked, and continue to work, to give to those without.
City governments scrambled to assist local businesses as they responded to the crisis, helping some keep their doors open and employees on the payroll. A local church raised and distributed food and tens of thousands of dollars to both individuals and businesses in the Yachats community. There were layoffs and furloughs. Jobs have been lost.
I was unable to watch the horror of the video of the killing of George Floyd, but I covered the local protests when there was an outcry in our community calling out racism and demanding justice that continues each Saturday in Yachats.
I cover the work of local law enforcement, too, tasked with the difficult job of enforcing laws and often called upon to save lives. These men and women respond, unsure of what they will encounter when they answer a call.
As summer progressed, there were more cars, more people. We were able to get our teeth cleaned. We dined in at our favorite local restaurant. There was the illusion, for me, that some semblance of normal life was resuming.
Then the whole West started burning, and we couldn’t breathe. The sky went dark. The smoke was so thick, we couldn’t see the sun. And the fire reached Lincoln County, burning many acres and dozens of homes. We don’t yet know the extent of the damage.
I met some of the evacuees, first at the community college in South Beach. It brought tears to my eyes when a woman told me, “This is everything we have.” She sat amid some tote bags on the sidewalk holding the leash of her small dog.
It’s difficult to look at the need in our community because it is so great. It’s discomforting, and easy to ignore. But there are those in our community who are well aware of the need and stand ready to meet it.
While divisive rumors swept social media, people casting blame from the comfort of their homes, I saw a tired community college president still watching the door late in the evening after leading her staff in turning the college into a respite center for fire evacuees. I saw a woman lead the Red Cross volunteer effort to shelter the evacuees while not knowing if her own home in Panther Creek had burned.
“This community stands ready to provide whatever you need,” a 4-H volunteer told a family as they drove up to the fairgrounds to board their pets. I don’t know her, but I will always admire her strength and calm, and the example she and her daughter presented of compassion and service. I can’t even image the relief and gratitude felt by the families who were helped by the generosity of their community.
I am so grateful for all the volunteers in our community rising to meet the challenges we are facing. I’m grateful, too, for our police, firefighters and other first responders, the grocery clerks, the linemen and the food makers and servers. To everyone who contributes, doing their part to keep life going, thank you. You are the best of us.