The Real World Intrudes
The fires that have swept through Victoria can't be ignored by anyone living in Australia. Living in the bush myself, I know what it's like to watch plumes of smoke and worry about how we'll go in trying to save our dogs, horses and house. So far I haven't been put to the test, but this week some of my friends have. Smiley and Maree lost everything but the clothes they wore, the car they escaped in and a couple of items they managed to grab. Smiley, a veteran of Viet Nam and retired member of the Royal Australian Corps of Signals, was a friend and mentor who taught me more than I can say about the mysteries and vagaries of communications , especially satellite communications. For a RAEME soldier, as I was by then, whose focus was on maintenance more than using the communications, the knowledge he imparted filled an important gap and enabled me to better do my job.
Mark and Vicki were a little luckier. Although they lost their sheds and in many of the personal "treasures" that mark our lives, their house was damaged but not destroyed. Mark is an old friend, a former infantry soldier who served in Cambodia and later went to RASigs. Our pride in having been infantry soldiers in the Royal Australian Regiment and in having earned the right to wear the "Skippy badge", although we served at different times and put our loyalty with different battalions, and our shared interest in history and wargaming cemented that friendship. We've joked together, watched each others' kids grow up, helped each other with problems and taken a lot of pleasure in facing each other across the games table, playing mainly ancients but also ACW and Napoleonics. Mark's figures, bar a couple of boxes he managed to save, were victims of the flames.
So far I've been lucky. The few peple I knew, that lived in that area, are safe. Too many other Australians were not so fortunate, grieving because family or a friends were among the 181 confirmed dead from the fires.
Another friend, from the USA, asked how a tragedy like this can happen in a civilised country. I really don't have an answer. It was, literally, an unprecedented event. Old methods of staying safe in a bush fire had failed. Never has a fire burned this hot, fanned by strong winds into bush that was dry from years of drought. Glass in house windows shattered from the heat, allowing the flames in. Windows in cars melted as the flames overtook vehicles driving to safety and the cars burned. The flames travelled at over 100km per hour, from some reports.
I'm not religious and I don't believe in prayer. But in this I'll ask that, if you do believe in prayer, please say one for those who are injured, those who are missing and those who are grief stricken. I'll gladly be wrong in what I believe, if it helps just one of those who have suffered this past weekend.