The Melodic Line: What Californians truly need right now

By Melody Chen

Our state was rattled with multiple tragedies within a few hours. A troubled Marine veteran, Ian David Long, burst into a club and shot 12 people in the Thousand Oaks community. Hours after the shooting, a wildfire raged near the community already shrouded with the tragedy of their lost families, friends and neighbors. Firefighters had to combat not just one, but three wildfires: the Camp Fire in Northern California, the Ventura County Fire and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California. The state will not be sleeping for a long time.

Photo by Aishwarya Jayadeep
The wildfires have brought a mental toll to California.

With hate crimes such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting and Kentucky grocery shooting a few weeks ago, tragedies seem to mount upon the nation’s back. There is little room left for mourning as one tragedy escalates to the next.

The mental trauma that we Californians are experiencing is a troubling likeness of the relentless fires storming through a city already shaken with devastation. The stress of our nation has accumulated without a moment of breath upon a breaking point in which the fires of emotion storm in without remorse. What we need is to awaken our evolutionary nature to connect with these victims.

With society’s creation of politics and regulations, it is essential to take a different turn and acknowledge the human want of connection and empathy that we would often set aside in consideration of the entire nation.\

Yet, according to Vox, as the number of tragedies increases, our willingness to connect decreases. According to an experiment by University of Oregon, participants were less likely to distribute water for 4,500 people in a refugee camp of 250,000 residents compared to 11,000 residents. This phenomenon is called psychic numbing.

74 lives have been lost thus far, and more than 1000 are unaccounted for in the fire. The Camp Fire in Northern California destroyed 11,862 structures. And yet, underneath these numbers, there are innocent lives taken away all too soon.

One way to combat insensitivity within the digits is to share the stories of individuals affected by the fire.

These incidents have been occurring all too often that they seem unreal until they hit the Bay Area. The media has been sharing individual stories of victims that capture the emotions of many across the nation.

Individuals on social media have been pouring out videos of narrow escapes from the fire and photo galleries of red, orange and yellow. News reporters have interviewed those who lost their homes, capturing personal stories of their experiences and sending gratitude to firefighters for their courage and endurance in the lines of duty.

These tragedies keep coming back because we don’t use these individual stories to remind the public of the dangers of climate change. When we keep denying the California wildfires due past their seasons and shrinking ice caps in Antarctica, these fires will keep coming back, even in the winter. Soon, the wildfires will be year-round and these stories will not matter anymore.

What we need in California is not political admonition amid a crisis, but an empathetic response that would touch the hearts of the victims who lost everything and the firefighters battling the flames, resurrecting the hope of restoring their normal lives.

Our firefighters and first responders need the encouragement they deserve to battle the fires. If we extend our faith to the heroes and victims, we can give them the hope they need to fight the war of wildfires.