One week ago today a wildfire raging out of control changed the landscape of the west side of Colorado Springs forever. This fire was devastating on so many levels. I want to share with you my personal ties to this tragedy as well as words of encouragement for moving forward.
I grew up in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is a small city nestled at the bottom of the majestic Pikes Peak. Colorado Springs is a tourist town where people from all over the world come to experience a little piece of the west. The beautiful Garden of the Gods, the grandness of Pikes Peak, charming Manitous Springs, the Air Force Academy , the famous Broadmoor Hotel,and of course the Flying W Ranch. All of these landmarks played a significant part in my childhood and all were threatened to be destroyed last Tuesday. All places are safe with the exception of the Flying W Ranch. The famous Flying W was reduced to ashes last Tuesday, something that is still hard to believe and has saddened our community and all who remember this very special place.
My family still lives in Colorado Springs so for me the fire was very personal. I have a girlfriend who I have known since kindergarten who lives in the Mountain Shadow subdivision that was destroyed. This time last week we were sitting at a book store drinking iced tea, biding the time as she was evacuated and was not able to be in her home. Our conversation was easy as it always is with someone you have known all your life. Never in a million years could we have imagined what would happen later that day. My brother -in-law is Scotty Vaughn. Scott was a Flying W Wrangler for 31 years. He came to the ranch as a young kid, just 21 ,with a wild disposition and a love for the ranch and western music. Just like the ranch itself ,Scotty grew up and he became a famous writer of western music and the beloved entertainer at the Flying W where people came from literally all over the world to have this cowboy experience that he so amazingly provided. In the last few years, Scott became a pastor. Starting a new career along with my sweet sister -in- law, they started The Church On the Ranch. The congregation met every Sunday at the Flying W. They started the church in the little church building that looked like it was from the set of Little House On the Prairie. This is the church where Cindy and Scott were married. The church had grown significantly in the last year but never lost the charm of the cowboy church and the genuine love they share for each other and for the Lord. These strong attributes will get them through the devastation that came over the mountain.
My cell phone started ringing constantly. I feared something went wrong when I saw I had missed calls from my mom, my friend, my sister, my sister-in-law. I called my friend first ,scared the fire had consumed her home. She was crying telling me the fire came over the mountain and was destroying her area of town. She had no idea about her house she just saw the plumes of black smoke, the raging red flames shooting into the sky, and the thickness of the air that was choking her as she was trying to talk to me. My sister-in -law told me they feared the Flying W was gone. Soon my in-laws were evacuated, aunts and uncles, friends, all were scrambling to take things from their homes , not knowing if when they returned it would all be gone.
I was not able to focus on anything. I got home and knelt by my bed praying for all to be safe. See behind all those numbers that were flashing on my TV screen – 32,000 people evacuated – and all the buildings they were reporting on, and the sea of cars trying to escape the inferno,to me those weren’t just numbers – they are people that I love ! For over three hours we could not find Scott, he was helping church members evacuate. All cell phone service was disturbed due to the fire. We were worried sick until finally my phone rang telling me he was ok. His church members were ok too, but the flying W was gone forever. My husband and I sat the rest of the evening staring at the unbelievable scene that played out in front of us. Our home town was on fire. News anchors cried when they reported the news about the ranch. I sat up for hours after the rest of my family went to sleep. Hard to believe so much devastation, so quickly, never expected. I thought how little control we really have over our lives and how important it is to remember God is God and I am not. I thought how unimportant “stuff” is and how important the people we love are ! I continued to pray and basically prayed myself to sleep.
Numbers continue to play on the news. The people in my life, their lives changed forever. 346 people lost their homes, three families from the Church on the Ranch Community. My friend was able to walk into her home this past Sunday and it is still standing. Thankful, so thankful, yet so hard to look out her window and see her friends and neighbors who lost everything. All that remains on the beautiful forest hill behind her house are black sticks and white ash. They found the chuckwagon bell from the ranch and brought it to the church service this past Sunday. They have a temporary home at Penrose Stadium. It was a symbol of hope. The images on the news have now been replaced by the latest wildfire, breaking world news, but for those in Colorado Springs who are sifting through ashes, the story is far from over. A long road of recovery is ahead.
I am so proud of the attitude and the faith my family and friends have displayed. They know that God will provide and there will be good to come from this tragedy. They are confident that He makes beautiful things out of dust !
Please continue to pray for those affected by all the wildfires in our beautiful Colorado.