Many thanks to Steve Jacobsen for his lessons from January 9 and to the Indy for publishing his reflections. In March 1978, I attended my senior retreat at Casa de Maria with my classmates from my parochial high school in Torrance. It was a week that changed my life — I fell in love with Santa Barbara and decided to return, and I made a commitment to follow a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth.

Nearly 40 years later, my life changed again on January 9, 2018. The mountain canyons above Montecito that I had hiked and ridden every week for years came crashing down to the sea. I can never forget the sound of the rain that night outside of my window in downtown Santa Barbara. As I told my kids later, it sounded violent and almost evil. The debris flow killed four people I knew, destroyed Casa de Maria, destroyed so much for so many people, and caused me to re-examine my relationships with Santa Barbara and that Jewish carpenter. As I recently mentioned to a friend of mine that experienced 1/9, I am confident that I have a bit of trauma that is still healing. That is hard to say out loud.

In the days and weeks that followed that night, the results and the impacts became clearer — they were devastating. With my role at the county, I spent the following weeks facilitating daily briefings with national, state, and local officials on the emergency response and cleanup efforts. I also got to see the devastation up close. There are not enough words to describe the compassionate, overwhelming, and humbling efforts by so many — from first responders to dump truck drivers.

As I remember January 9, 2018, and the aftermath, I will use Mr. Jacobsen’s lessons to help heal that bit of trauma I still carry to this day.


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