Logan West Chappy Helps in NSW Fires by Angie Herranz
In November 2019, my colleague, Jesse, and I sat in our office when we received a text message asking if Chaplains could get their “go bag” ready for deployment to the fires. At this stage we had no idea how bad things would get, but houses were under threat, and evacuation centres were open. I’d been back from my honeymoon for a week as I farewelled my new husband saying, “welcome to the life of being married to a Chaplain.”
Our deployment took us to Woolgoolga, Macksville and Kempsey where we comforted and supported locals who had fled their properties to find shelter in the local show grounds or evacuation centres.
People were camping together with their goats, horses, turtles, chickens, dogs, and cats alike. We comforted people who described what it’s like to have fire-ravaged trees falling down behind you as you drive away watching your house go up in flames in the rear-view mirror.
Some people describe the fire taking out the house to the left and right of them, leaving theirs. Others discussed how the support from neighbours, friends, and family had now become their backbone for what the weeks following would bring.
I can’t describe what it’s like to not see the sky. It creates an eerie feeling across these towns. It makes it impossible to think about anything else but the fires, as your eyes sting and throat burns.
As I reflect upon my deployment I’m reminded of the importance of community. I’m reminded how important it is to look out for the elderly, the young, and disabled. I’ve learnt that family is what you have made it to be, all shapes and sizes, yet we need each other, to survive, to re-build, to support, to donate, for strength and wisdom as life goes on.