SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — For the past week, many living in the North Bay’s fire zone have been in a constant state of shock. It will be a long time before some parts of Wine Country look normal again, and possibly even longer for its residents to feel that way.
For residents of Santa Rosa, the very idea of returning to “normal” seems far off, especially with the sky still hazy and ashes still dancing in the air.
To the kids, having yet another week off from school doesn’t feel at all like a vacation.
“Being able to witness it first-hand is…something else,” said Santa Rosa 7th grader Daniel Martinez.
It’s the same all over town. Everyone would like to feel normal again, but they just can’t. Santa Rosa psychologist Dr. Dorothy Mandel said she expects her patients will handle the trauma in different ways.
“For some people getting back to a normal routine of any kind is really, really grounding,” explained Dr. Mandel. “And for other people, their anxiety levels are so high it may be difficult to do that.”
Santa Rosa is in shock. Its people have seen too much and been frightened for too long.
“I’ve been back to work since last Thursday and it’s feeling more normal…but, not really,” said Santa Rosa resident Charlie Emery.
Another local, Joe Castro, was evacuated from his ridgetop home three times last week.
“Just…just…we had to just stop worrying. ‘Cuz we worried so much it just drove us nuts, said Castro. “Just like, OK it’s probably gonna go. Lucky for us, it didn’t go.”
Residents of the town are trying. Businesses are open and some people are shopping or meeting for coffee. But along with gratitude of those who are still here and did not lose their homes, there is a sadness. And for some, a feeling of guilt for surviving intact when so many did not.
And always, there is that stinging smell in the air reminding everyone what happened.
“No way. No way to take your mind off it. Everything’s crazy,” said resident Waymon Radford. “Santa Rosa’s not used to this. Sonoma County wasn’t ready for it. It’s gonna take a while.”
Castro was a bit more optimistic.
“Just gonna have to all stick together and help out as much as we can and get cleaned up,” said Castro. “It’s gonna be a project.”