It’s been a terrible few days in Victoria, with news of the bushfires growing darker and darker as the days go by. I was in Sydney on Saturday and glad to be out of the heat and turned on the news casually late Saturday night. Watching the news no-one seemed to realise the enormity of the event. Talk of five or six dead, then a dozen, then forty. As I write the death toll stands at 181 and is likely to rise even further.
There’s shock and disbelief and sadness. Anger will come. I don’t know the areas affected well but have had contact with it over the years. A weekend with friends in the Yarra Valley last year is a memory of a wonderful place in perfect weather. How different it all was on the weekend.
In 2007 I accompanied the Science teachers of our College as we had a two day professional development seminar in Marysville. It was a great weekend, and we stayed at an old guest house, corridors lined with old photos of Marysville and its rich logging past. On the second morning I borrowed a mountain bike from the owners and rode around Marysville getting a feel for the place and the beautiful setting. I took some photos and made a little video of the creek. It seems that Marysville is no more.
Today, in it’s wrap-around coverage of the fires, the Herald-Sun published the first pictures of some of the victims. Normal looking snapshot photos, of families smiling in normal looking family events. I’ve sat in front of the TV this week a bit stunned and sad, but these pictures brought it home to me, that these are people, not numbers.
And then later in the day in class, a student in tears telling me that her family had lost their farm, and three close neighbours.
I remember Ash Wednedsay and the dark ash washing up on the beach at Gunamatta Beach and we thought it would never happen again. It’s all been a bit unreal, but looking at the Google Fire Map I’m reminded that it’s still only February and that summer has some time to go yet.