As the Black Forest Fire began winding down late last week, but that dreaded daily revision of destroyed houses kept growing and growing, we saw a full spectrum of responses in dealing with it.
We saw the annual Springs Spree come off as planned. We cheered the finish of Ride the Rockies, bringing 2,000 riders to town at the end of their 540-mile trek. And the Millibo Art Theatre went ahead with Red Nose Day, celebrating its relocation to the Ivywild area — and the start of summer.
But not every event followed that lead. Last Friday morning, the Tri-Lakes Center for the Arts in Palmer Lake called off its Flying W Wranglers concert planned for that night. The Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum decided to cancel two previews before the opening of its From the Ashes: The Waldo Canyon Fire exhibit this weekend, which would have included a "first responders appreciation event" this Friday. And the Pikes Peak Range Riders nixed their annual Range Ride this week, which would have left after the traditional Street Breakfast on Wednesday.
In the Range Riders' release, president Ted Severn respectfully said, "We believe that our presence at home; and our continued support to the community, and to our members and friends is a far better use of our time and resources this next week."
I hear that other factors were involved in each case. But given that the firefighting effort had made such a visibly positive turn on Thursday, those cancellations felt like possible over-reactions with a potential snowball effect, just as it seemed like overkill that the local TV news stations continued their obsessive, often-repetitive 24/7 coverage long after the tide had turned.
Obviously, there is no right or wrong in making decisions like this, and even bringing it up feels a little like walking on eggshells. So I decided to be the facilitator, asking a few prominent local people, including one who lost her home last year in the Waldo Canyon Fire, how they feel.
From this point, I'll defer to their comments:
C.J. Moore of Kaiser Permanente, now rebuilding her Mountain Shadows home: "We should continue those events in honor of the folks who lost so much. Having a semblance of normalcy was so very important to me. Let's recognize our losses and push on. Life goes on and that is what helps us recover."
Sallie Clark, El Paso County commissioner: "We have to continue on with our lives. We don't want to disrespect anyone who lost a home, and we don't want to scare people away with fear. Our community is grieving and that's natural, but the people impacted don't want us to stop everything because of the fire. Even in their own lives, they want to get back to routine. Everything doesn't stop because something came up in your life."
Jan Martin, City Councilor: "To say that we need to stop the focus on the fire and move on just doesn't feel right to me. I think the museum and Range Riders are good examples of groups trying to figure out how you deal with the fire. Every group will decide based on their own values of what's best, but we have to be careful not to be critical. Is it better to just pick up and move on, or do we owe it to everyone to take some time to understand the tragedy and give people a chance to help? When is it OK for people to carry on with their lives when so many of our fellow citizens are suffering so much?"
Mary Lou Makepeace, Give! campaign executive director and former mayor of Colorado Springs: "Certainly the fire is a devastating event in our community, but it should not define us. I don't understand the rationale for canceling events beyond the fire. I think returning to a sense of normalcy is the path to recovery for all of us."
Clark: "They say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place, but this time it did, and this is just heartbreaking. But we have to move on."
Martin: "I've actually been thinking about whether people become immune to tragedies when so much happens to so many people in such a short period of time."
Moore: "We need to begin including the Black Forest folks in events like the Mountain Shadows concert on June 26. Let's rally and recover! And let the world know it!"
Makepeace: "We're Westerners. We're tough, and no stinkin' fire is going to defeat us."