OPINION: 50,000 displaced for your campus holiday

Sac State students need to remember the real reason campus is closed


Jordyn Dollarhide - The State Hornet

I cried tears while driving past the Paradise junction on my way through Oroville. All roads to Paradise and Magalia are completely blocked while emergency personnel work through the aftermath of the Camp Fire.

Jordyn Dollarhide, Marketing manager

I have had enough of watching Sacramento State students celebrate the campus closure due to the poor air quality created by smoke carried from the Camp Fire.

I understand how exciting it must be that you get an extra two days to study for that exam you weren’t prepared for. Or maybe the “day off” is your chance to get a break from your least favorite professor.

But this “campus holiday” is no excuse for you to celebrate with a smile on your face and hit your favorite bar for some day drinking.

Why do I care so much? Because I grew up in Chico.

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Half of my friends are now homeless, most of whom were forced to run from their cars because the flames began to melt their tires. Countless grandparents from families I have known for years are missing and in danger.

Bodies are being discovered every day and each time that a press conference is aired, I’m praying the death count isn’t higher. But so far, it has been each time.

RELATED: Nearby Camp Fire prompts closures, other actions from Sac State

I can still remember eating at the Black Bear Diner in Paradise after my softball tournaments and driving up Skyway to get tires from Les Schwab when I worked for my dad as my first job at 16 years old. I recorded my first CD with a producer named Gene, who lived right off of the main road. His home is gone now.

I don’t care if you are happy that school is canceled. The only reason your classes are dismissed is because thousands of my fellow community members are now homeless and forced to rebuild their lives from the ground up while living in the Chico Walmart parking lot.

How do you rebuild when your town was nearly leveled? It’s a question I have thought about every day following the start of the fire, which is now the most deadly in California’s history.

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If the numbers from the Camp Fire isn’t enough, the fact that even Sac State — which is roughly 90 miles away from Paradise — is closed due to poor air quality is proof enough of how devastating this wildfire is. The smoke comes from almost 200 square miles of land and 7,000 structures that have burned, and it has reached all the way to the city of Santa Cruz.

And people are celebrating school being canceled.

This past weekend, I left work early on Friday. I couldn’t stand it. I flew down Interstate 5 until the smoke was so thick it looked like the dead of night. I threw the one outfit I packed into my spare room inside my parent’s house in the Chico Orchards and drove to the nearest volunteer organization. The rest of my time I spent with evacuees and sheltered animals found during the Camp Fire.

On top of the hundreds of dogs, cats, chickens and even goats I cared for, there was one image that has stuck with me.

The Chico Elks Lodge evacuation center was a dark room full of cots and some of the tens of thousands of people affected by evacuations. I entered that room pretty frequently during my 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift to grab coffee. Each time I entered, I saw the same man.

He was sitting up in his cot in the middle of the room, feet flat on the floor, elbows on his knees, staring at the same spot on the wall. There was no way he was younger than 70 years old. Every time I would go in, he was there, in the same position.

Even in the dark I could see the emptiness in his face. He didn’t have to tell me that he lost everything, I already knew. I will never forget that image.

Today, I want you to remember that man. Remember the images of Paradise and Magalia that you have seen. Remember the estimated 50,000 people who have been displaced by the Camp Fire. Remember the animals in the evacuation shelters that have not been claimed by their owners.

Remember the real reason Sac State’s campus has been closed.

Even better, if you are free on the weekends and feel inclined to volunteer, Chico is in need of volunteers for the animal shelters, evacuation centers and donation stations throughout the city. Volunteer applications can be filled out on the Caring Choices website.

If you are unable to get to Chico and want to help out from Sacramento [or any other city,] evacuees are more in need of monetary donations rather than supplies. There is a GoFundMe set up for Camp Fire victims that goes directly to the families affected. Take today to think of those who are affected.

Celebrations should be saved for another time.