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Sometimes life’s greatest lessons are learned from our most trying times.

Most life-threatening ever were the wildfires encircling St Helena from all sides in October. With severely polluted air and only one road open, we evacuated to Napa Valley College gymnasium in Napa late Tuesday night.

After 4 nights of increasing air impurities in Napa and little fire containment, heading 300 miles north to a friend’s home in Redding helped restore my breathing and other health concerns.

After a week of cleaner air, driving home past vast mountain destruction and still-smoldering forests secured by fire crews, brought direct awareness of the far-reaching devastation, and the providence of our area being spared complete annihilation.

Amazingly, my first sight over the final summit into the Napa Valley, our unscathed St Helena was shining like a bright star. Through tears of joy I realized our dedicated St Helena Volunteer Fire Department, with hundreds more volunteers from around the globe, had saved our treasured city and valley from fire damage.

We feel very blessed and grateful for all the prayers, calls and help of all kinds – firefighting, evacuation, counseling, respite, meals, medical care, bedding, clothing – that came to our rescue. Caring people made the huge difference in the outcome of this still unbelievable catastrophe.

With my heart still wrenching for the lives and homes lost to wildfires in the north, anguish for our southern neighbors now struggling with nature’s same climatic tragedy, is heartbreaking. Beyond my hopes and prayers for containment, and lives and homes saved from these fires, are for blind eyes to see the power of the environment’s wrath, and all work together to save our beautiful earth from further disaster.

Living through this time of total vulnerability to nature was my greatest lesson ever about people helping people. Sleeping on a cot among hundreds from all walks of life, and receiving world-class gourmet meals and all amenities of an upscale life, by a most caring, present, giving team of volunteers from all corners of the globe, is still difficult to fathom.

The Napa Valley College shelter, American Red Cross, and the many others who came great distances to be of help in our time of need, touched my heart deeply. Isn’t this the Peace on Earth Good Will Toward All we’ve always been seeking? What joy to know heaven on Earth can really happen. Thank you, volunteers, for this wonderful lesson.

Holly Rogers

St. Helena