Watt Family Rebuild

Help us rebuild after we lost everything in the Marshall Fire.

View project on GitHub

We’ve been in the rental house in Louisville for more than a month now. It’s both comforting and heartbreaking to be so close to our old neighborhood. We often drive a block from our house, and you can clearly see that it’s gone. The first time I went this route with Alexander in the car, I prefaced that our neighborhood looked really different than it did before. Thankfully he seemed not to notice or be bothered the first few times we drove by.

Our rental house is on a country-ish road in Louisville, and we’ve started exploring the neighborhood on foot when the weather’s nice. We’re at the end of a dead end road, one that was lined with houses on half or full acre lots along the west side. Nearly all of the homes were lost to the fire, save for a cluster of three. On a recent sunny afternoon, we walked along the road and passed the burned out houses. I asked Alexander what he thought happened to those houses. His reply: “Big bulldozers came and crashed them down!”

“Yeah,” I said, “it looks like that, doesn’t it? A big fire came along and burned these houses down.”

“And the firetrucks came!” he replied.

“Yes,” I said, “the firefighters came and helped everyone, but these houses burned down. They couldn’t be saved.” We continued along, passing maybe ten homes that were burned, until we finally made it to our rental house, safe, sound, and spared.

A few days later, I took Alexander for a Costco run in Superior. We used to walk to that shopping center regularly, sometimes visiting Target, Whole Foods, and Costco all in one trip. As we drove along Marshall Road, we saw Asti Park and the rest of Original Town. Alexander looked over towards our lot and said, “Our house burned down.” Our house was fairly visible from that spot on Marshall before, and with nearly everything gone now there are few obstructions. He started talking about the blue house - our wonderful neighbors that lived across the street - and then I started to cry. Their house is gone as well, of course, along with nearly everything. What remains is a ghost. 

The pain of losing our home is incredible, and it’s compounded when I think of my neighbors, those I knew well and those I never met, all losing so much. Beloved pets and Christmas ornaments and ridiculously old t-shirts - all irreplaceable, memories of them popping up without warning. Lives forever changed, broken in half: before and after the fire.

Most of the time I’m fine. We’re fine. I see friends and can recount the story of what happened on December 30th without crying. I can hug someone and not break down. But I’ll see a photo or go to grab something we used to have, and the tears start. I’m grateful and exhausted and angry and fine.