WE SURVIVED THE GREAT KNYSNA FIRE
We are the survivors. With help from friends and strangers, we got through the worst fire in our country’s history. Some of us did our best to help too. We are rightfully emotional, especially for unresolved issues. It is assured that we are experiencing mixed memories on its third anniversary (June 7). Kindness is godsend, anger is not…
SOUTH AFRICANS RUSHED TO HELP US
2017 must be remembered for our dead and damaged but also for the praiseworthy manner in which South Africans, from every province, rushed to assist us. We may have been separated from the world, the fire encircling us, but we were not alone. Yes, some things got stolen but food and clothes arrived in abundance. Residents of neighbouring towns grabbed shovels, jumped in their bakkies and rode to fight the fire.
According to the Garden Route Rebuild website, “1,100 formal and informal homes were destroyed and about 8,000 people were evacuated.” That means that 68,000 of us stayed. That destruction figure increases if we count the fires, that were happening the same time, in next-door Plettenberg Bay.
As most residents had no warning of the approaching wall of fire or fireballs, depending on what area they were in, we were inordinately fortunate that it happened during the day. If it had been night, the losses would likely have likely been in the unbearable hundreds or even over a thousand. Although we must count our good fortune, that does not diminish the pain for the friends and family of the 6 who died in Knysna. I may not have known her but it is especially hard for me to think of the toddler who died in my area.
Many would agree with me that the number is 8 – Mandy Johnston (28), who suffocated, was near to giving birth; Bradley Richards (24), a Bitou fireman, was adopted by our hearts after he died fighting in the Harkerville Forest in between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay.
THE WORST THING IS IF TRAGEDY TEACHES US NOTHING
What lessons did we learn? Are we better prepared for next time?
This is part of a longer article with links and photos. I go on to explain why the financial and political crisis we’re in now is because we never learnt the lessons the Fire tried to teach us. And the politicians who damaged us then, are damaging us now.