22nd of November 2017
Last Monday I went north. I have not been able to travel a lot the last 2 years but now I am well again and my habit, just hopping into my car and driving towards the adventures, can flourish again. What a relive.
After driving for about 8 minutes towards Condeixa from Penela, the sadness grips your soul. Everything is black on one side of the national road and the other side is green and beautiful.
Driving continues and when I left Coimbra I drove into the vast area where everything, every tree and even some houses were black.
I arrived in Tondela and sat down with my friends, my Portuguese family, who has in a way adopted me here in my new land.
We talked about the fires and the people who had been trapped in the little village, and could not get away. There was no way out. The fires were everywhere on both sided of the road.
I sat at the kitchen table with my friends and looked out through the window. What I saw was just destruction and so close. I could almost touch the burned wood with my hands.
The fires in this area erupted when the hurricane tossed the wind and with it the flames from a fire who most likely had been made by man.
Everything was thick by smoke, the air black and difficult to breath.
Some people left the little village by foot. They headed to Tondela. They were lucky. A car came and picked them up. Had they been on foot a bit longer the flames might have caught them.
When a fireman called the police and asked them to close the roads he was told there was no one available. Everyone was out trying to control the mess. No one came to help in this village. The fires roared on both sides of the road to Tondela.
This was the night when my family went to bed and woke up to the horror. This was the night when they thought they would not survive.
This was the night when the fire tried to destroy the little church but someone managed to save the church.
This was the night when the companies, the garage, the company with all the new cars burned down.
This was the night when the family lost its house but the insurance will compensate and they can build the house again. The family did not just loose the house. They lost all the memories. All the little drawings and things the children and grandchildren had made for them during decades. They lost all the photos. Everything. These are things that no insurance can compensate. They are lost forever.
People don´t want to talk about what happened. It is too painful. They have searched the ruins, trying to find something but there was nothing. Now the ground has been cleaned and the new house will rise but the sorrow will last for a long time. New memories will be made and eventually the people will learn to live with what happened but they will never forget.
The little village and many others are in morning. The Christmas is coming. There won’t be celebrations like before. This year will be quiet and contemplation around the holidays.
I drove for 2 hours and the horror was everywhere. Yes, one day everything will be green again, but that is not next year.
Those who have not experienced the horror of driving through the fires can not comprehend the feeling. I was on my way home 5 years ago and the fires had closed the road. The police took us through. I have never in my whole life been as scared. I can still feel the hand around my heart. The hand of horror. It is not like I am thinking about it all the time, but when I see the smoke and fire every time I enter my balcony it creeps into the mind again.
This summer I did not travel. I did not dare. I was at home as much as possible. I was a prisoner in my home. It was difficult breathing and the smell was inside the apartment, even though the fires were not at my doorstep.
Now it’s winter in my little land. The danger is almost over for the time being. There might even be some rain during the next days. We need the rain.
Traveling now is easier than during this summer. Now I can travel to places where the woods have already caught the fire . There is something very wrong. Something needs to be done. This can not happen again next summer. Now the government has to do instead of talk.
I don´t know how to solve the problem. It is said that the helicopter companies get a lot of money for helping and there is corruption there. I don´t know about it but there are videos on You Tube that show what happened.
Corruption is a ruthless enemy.
What can I do to help?
Can I do anything?
Yes I can.
I can plant trees. I have got permission and on Monday I saw where we might plant the new ones. The people need to see something happen. They need hope. Hope comes with action. I am going to give 72 trees this year and 73 next year and so on. One tree for every year I live. This will be my contribution and I hope I can lift the spirit of the little village just showing them I care.
Everyone can do something like this. I would like to appeal to those who live outside my country, all around the world, to donate something to help build the woods again.
Next year the climate in my little land will be different. It will be warmer and likely more windy. My country needs help.
If you have any ideas how to help please let me know. Although, I ask you not to give money to the government. We don´t know how or when or even ever they would use the money to plant new trees. There have been donations for those who were caught in the fires during the summer and they have not been distributed.
I am not giving the money for my 72 trees to the government. I am going to buy the trees and plant them with my friends. That’s the only way I can be absolutely sure where my contribution will end up.