by John Ramos

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — A group of children who have lost all they had in the Valley Fire got a well-needed break Thursday from rebuilding their new lives.

Fifty children from Lake County International Charter School in Middletown were the guests of honor at the San Francisco Zoo Thursday. Their school survived the fire, but many of the kids’ homes did not and it’s been tough on everybody.

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The Valley Fire has killed four people, injured four firefighter, destroyed nearly 2,000 homes and structures, and displaced more than 1,200 people.

For two weeks the kids of Middletown have had to deal with nature’s wrath. Today they got to experience some of its wonders.

“Just to be able to get out and get away from that and have a break from that is really healing for them,” said school director Gwendolyn Maupin-Ahern.

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And while the zoo itself was fun, what was really great was being with friends again. Maupin-Ahern said getting together and sharing their stories has made them feel less alone in coping with a traumatic situation.

“’Cause we’re all a big family and it’s affecting many people,” said student Tewodros Michael. “It’s not just a few people, it’s a lot of people.”

“I’m just so excited to be here with all my friends and hear and see that they’re OK from the fire,” said student Kaydance Mitchell.

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It’s not the kind of thing any kid should have to worry about. But if letting off a little steam at the zoo was meant to take their minds off it, it looks like it worked.