By Jillian Robertson, Red Cross communicator
Red Crosser Yesenia Miranda Meza did not know the impact she would have, as she comforted a woman forced to evacuate her home during the Getty Fire in late October 2019. The woman, Betsey Landis, had come to the Red Cross shelter at Westwood Recreation Center as high winds continued to whip through the burn zone, raising concerns that one of the gusts would cause the fire to continue to spread.
Once the winds died down, the fire department had assured her and the other shelter residents, they would be able to return home.
As Betsey put it, “We wait on the wind.”
This turn of phrase stood out to Yesenia, and in a moment of inspiration, she complimented Betsey and suggested she write a poem about her experience. Once the fire had died down, Betsey returned home, and unbeknownst to Yesenia, took the task of writing a poem about her experience to heart.
Months later, the Red Cross received a donation and a poem. The only criterion was that the poem be shared with the Red Crosser, who had taken good care of her at the shelter. She did not remember who had helped her, she only remembered how the person made her feel – cared for and safe. And that this person had suggested she write a poem.
With the help of the Disaster Cycle Services and Volunteer Services teams, who pored through the shelter volunteer lists to identify who had been working at the Westwood Recreation Center that day, Yesenia was finally identified as the inspiration for Betsey’s donation and poem.
Yesenia was moved to tears when she read the poem for the first time.
At the Red Cross, providing comfort and care to people affected by disasters such as the Getty Fire is par for the course. Yesenia never imagined that her kindness would make such an impact.
And now, without further ado, Betsey’s poem, “We Wait on the Wind.”
Night burst with brisk, noisy chatter,
As wind gusts tap-danced massed dry leaves
Crisply down asphalt roadway.
Shallow sleep came – both ears open.
3 a.m. the phone rang sharply:
“Get ready to evacuate!”
Five minutes later, phone rang:
“Get ready to evacuate!”
Fifteen minutes later – Ring! Ring!
“EVACUATE NOW!” Glow to south.
Now I was dressed, packing life’s needs
In my car, as wind tossed more leaves.
Two cars with flashing red lights, loud voices,
Drove up: “Are you ready to go?”
“Yes,” I said, climbing in my car.
“Good!” they roared on up our hill road.
Wind blew leaves off trees after them
Our Evacuation Center
Westwood Recreation Center
Wind was well-behaved, gentle, there.
By 4:30 a.m. crowds came ––
Elderly, handicapped people,
People with pets and families.
Volunteers showed them seats, washrooms.
By 6 a.m. Red Cross was there.
Providing walkers, canes, cots, chairs,
Cookies, buns, fruit, drinks, meals, blankets.
Windblown shrubs waved outside windows.
Next two days many people left,
Off to relatives, friends, hotels.
Perhaps twenty people stayed put,
Some of them had dogs in their care.
Wind paused, Center trees were still.
Two laptops by Red Cross table
Showed news photos of Getty Fire
When would canyon roads be opened?
Wind blew gently on outdoor plants.
Impatient, we wait on the wind.
On the third day, after dinner,
We learned L.A. Fire opened roads —
Winds calm, wildfire controlled, dying.
We raced home, to smoke-filled, still air.
We wait on the wind…
First Rain, November 20, 2019
Northeast-roaring wild winds gone first.
Onshore winds muscle wet clouds in
Mist, sprinkles, rain showers, cloudbursts.
Air blows clean, flowers gleam, leaves green.
Shrubs rootsprout fast-growing young sprigs,
Tree bark, burn-scarred, pop leafy twigs.
Rainwater soaks fire-scorched earth,
Triggers underground seeds to birth.
Life waits on the wind.