(Cropped) photo by fvanrenterghem under CC BY-SA 2.0
This article was written by a bushfire survivor.  Cecile wanted to express her gratitude to all those who helped her in her hours of need and knows that Rotary was involved behind the scenes in helping to support victims in many places.  She is happy for us to print this as part of her thanks to all those who helped people affected by the fires.

Dear town of Young,

Thank you so much for offering me refuge after the fires. 

I arrived at my mother’s place in the dirty jeans and Redback work boots I had thrown on ten days prior in the early hours of 31 December 2020 when the fires came for my home. 

I also wore an ugly but warm acrylic jumper with a knitted pattern of a Teddy bear and the name Ted. I had got it from the Bermagui Anglicare Op shop. They had opened later that Sunday morning to help, as best they could, the 5000-of us fleeing the fires that were not far behind us.  

There were people of all ages, families with small children, pets and even car portable livestock, guinea pigs, goats, chickens, and working dogs all camped on the oval near the beach. The dawn never came. The skies stayed dark all day. There was so much smoke blocking out the sun. The enormous force of the fire sent dense smoke up into the atmosphere forming pyro cumulonimbus clouds. Thunder and lightning struck over the beach. The power went down, the water supply was cut off and there was no mobile coverage. Despite these fires threatening the small coastal village it had turned cold. We shivered both from the temperature and the shock.

It was my good fortune that my mother lived in Young. As soon as they opened the Princes and Monaro Highway, we drove non-stop through smoke thicker than the worst fog up over Brown Mountain through Canberra and on to your township. We wanted to beat the fire before it closed up the roads again.

You were also worn down by the force of nature. It was hot and dusty from drought. But I could breathe easy and look at your blue skies. Your shops were open even though no one was spending. 
You let me swim kilometres at the local pool.

‘Swim it out.’ Said the pool manager when I told him I was from Cobargo.

You may have seen a mad woman jogging along looking neither left nor right with wet, messy hair, a towel over her shoulder wearing a cheap acrylic jumper with a teddy bear emblazoned on the front. I had to keep moving or I would fall apart.

I shopped at your quiet stores using my bushfire money to buy new underwear, a shirt, some work pants. You discounted the shirt and slipped a complimentary magazine to cheer me up. 

You gave me consolatory gifts: a pamper packs, a beautiful hand-crafted scarf. At the local café you exchanged pleasantries and let me feel part of the everyday world.

You cried when you heard my story at the local Centrelink. 

You provided me with compassionate medical services reviewing my physical and mental health, giving me new prescriptions and medications perished in the fires. You organised counselling where I cried and cried and felt safe and heard.

You welcomed me into your town and your homes and started the process of resurrecting me.  I will be forever grateful. I am glad the rains have finally come to you.