By Eric Maldonado, volunteer contributor, American Red Cross
Saturday, Sept. 12 began as a normal day for the Lopez family. As they headed to their son’s football game in Fort Bragg, Calif., they couldn’t have imagined that their home would not be standing in just a few hours.
As they left, they saw the smoke in the distance, but Cirilo Rodriguez told his wife, Rocio, “Don’t worry, the firefighters will get it.” However, when they reached the football field about two hours later, the buzz was already in the air: Middletown was on fire.
Because of the danger, they weren’t allowed to return home and stayed in a hotel in Fort Bragg for the night. They tried to make it to Clear Lake, but still couldn’t go in. They had nothing more than the clothes and items they had taken to the football game.
Eventually they found themselves at Red Cross shelter in Calistoga, Calif. Working with the American Red Cross and numerous other agencies, Cirilo has received financial assistance to start building their lives again. There they had access to mental health support, hot meals and a safe place to stay while they began to map out their road to recovery. And while the journey ahead is overwhelming and uncertain, he and his family are optimistic when they think about the future.
Despite losing nearly everything, Cirilo is grateful for what remains. He said, “Even though we’re left with no material items, we’re left with our family.”
Cirilo and Rocio’s children also continue to look to the future. Their daughter, Alejandra, 17, is a senior in high school and is planning to attend college. Their son Andres, 11, wants things to return to a new normal.
Cirilo is amazed at the outpouring of caring from the community and the support from the Red Cross. “It’s been a great help. People that don’t even know us are helping us.”