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JJ SAYS: When bad things happen, we are not alone.

We spent a long night watching the red glow and flickering flames of fires from all directions that seemed to surround the entire city. We had an excellent view of the entire hill as fire slowly ate up Fountaingrove.

Typical of how the mind works in an emergency, I had no coat and my brother-in-law had only house slippers with no socks. I spent the night sharing a coat with my nephew, alternately shivering and warming, and it wasn’t until Tuesday that Perry was able to get socks and real shoes.

Come daylight, the first order of business was to get coffee. By now, we had been joined by my niece, Heather, who had waited out the long night with a friend in Petaluma, creating a great deal of anxiety and even more phone calls and text messages.

Now whole as a family, we started out to access our particular damage. Using the local knowledge of all of us combined, we were able to snake our way back to my mobile home park and were amazed to be told we could walk in, but no vehicles.

It was about a quarter-mile walk to the street where I lived, and I was heartened as we strolled along to note that most of the homes looked untouched, but as we approached my street, I could see whisps of white smoke drifting around the corner, and my stomach and heart joined. We rounded the corner and both stomach and heart dropped into my socks.

All but a few of the homes on my side of the street were shovel ready for the dumpster — nothing but a few large appliances like a refrigerator, stove, washer, dryer and my car (no longer covered by a garage) were visible. The smell of foul smoke permeated the air. It is a sight and a feeling that all too many families have experienced. They all feel my pain and I understand their pain.

As I write this, my sister and her family have not seen their home, but it has been confirmed that their house, patio, trailer and all worldly possessions are gone. What remains for them and for far, far too many others, are the memories and the love they shared in that home. In the few short days since the fire, I and my family have been deluged with kindness and support — everything from places to stay to socks, condolences and more than a few hugs.

We, like thousands of others, will rebuild, not only our homes, but also our lives, now made richer by the generosity and love of others, along with the knowledge that when bad things happen, we are not alone.

(Contact John Jackson at johnie,jackson@arguscourier.com)