One year ago I remember clearly.
I had my guitar on my shoulder, leaving the warm dorms to trek across the chilly campus to my weekly music lesson, but the air was different than usual.
Everyone was huddled outside, talking as they saw smoke in the distance and hues of red burning in the sky that felt so distant at that moment.
“Are you really going to your lesson right now? There’s a fire,” my friend asked me.
Of course I would go to my lesson. It was my favorite part of Monday nights. Plus, the fire was nowhere near us, nothing would happen, and nothing would change.
Oh, how I was wrong.
Yet, so many things stayed the same.
One year later, I’m getting ready to go to my Monday night guitar lesson.
I have a new guitar, but it means so much more now. I appreciate it more now.
I’m still in a dorm room, wondering what I’ll be getting for secret snowflake tomorrow.
But I’m in a new dorm room, with a new roommate, on a new part of campus.
I don’t have the same clothes I had a year ago. The same photos, yearbooks, or blankets.
But, I have the photos I’ve taken since then.
My stuffed animal and All Time Low pillow I saved from the fire.
I still have the memories of the fire.
The ones that haunt me.
The ones that bring me to tears thinking about what I lost, what my friends lost, and what the whole school lost.
But, the memories remind me of how I became a stronger person since.
How my friends became stronger.
How the school became stronger.
How the county’s stronger.
I still remember the day I returned from Christmas break and stepped on to campus and moved into the new dorms.
Being welcomed by overwhelming support, welcome back goodie bags, and hugs from my friends.
Seeing my horse for the first time since the fire and knowing he was safe and healthy. That all the other horses were safe.
The fire was so destructive, so horrible, but so many things came out of it that I’m more thankful now for than ever.
It’s been one year and I’m still sensitive to the scent of smoke and fire, to the sound of news about other California fires on the TV.
But, one year later, the mountains are a little greener.
My home is still stronger than ever.
And that’s the most beautiful thing of all.