Black Saturday Bushfire Anniversary. A ten year old post.

Today I’m sharing a post I wrote 10 years ago. It was written on February 12, just 5 days after the Black Saturday Bushfire, Febrary 7, in 2009. I remember writing this in my daughter’s house in a confused and anxious state. It appeared on Blogger, a platform that I used back then. I have added these photos: the rest is unedited. After 9 months, all my writing just vanished overnight, thanks to a takeover, without warning, of my registered domain. This piece was mercifully preserved by Pandora Archive- National Library of Australia.¹  I’m sharing it again today because I want my children to keep these records. They need them more than I do. As I re-read it, I can’t help but think of all those people throughout the world who experience displacement on a much grander scale than I did on that day- refugees from war-torn countries forced to flee to other lands, to live in camps for years, those displaced through flood or cyclone, left homeless for years. I understand how fortunate I am. The gifts and financial assistance offered to us was overwhelming during the first year and deserves a post of its own, simply to document and thank every individual and organisation. It’s a huge list. Here’s that original post from February 2009.

Citrus grove, post fire 2009

And the Nightmare Continues

” I have been looking back on my previous posts. That life last week, up until February the 7th, seems so distant already, and yet only 5 days have passed. Each dawn brings the fear of more bad news, more neighbours and friends who are dead. My dawns last week took me to the vegetable garden or fruit trees for the day’s picking, or the chookhouse to gather the eggs. So many beautiful dreams for the future of the vineyard, the olive trees. Colourful imaginings of salads of tomatoes in four colours. The figs, although the leaves had already dropped in the furious heat of the previous fortnight, clung bravely to the branches, reminding me each morning that autumn would be along soon and figs would be part of the menu or preserving plan. My partner had planted Albarino grapes, he was excited by this Spanish variety as they are said to be drought resistant. Each morning or late evening he would move water from one dam to another to ensure that these new grape plantings would have sufficient water to survive this summer’s blasting heat. This was our work, these dreams kept us too busy, we had hopes for a small wine making barn, we planned to preserve the tomatoes in the old Italian way, to breed prettier hens, to pickle our young olives, to cart our excess of produce to neighbours, family and friends. It was work, it was our identity. And that’s what we lost in last week’s inferno.

We are reminded daily of the horror that was last Saturday as the death toll rises. We grieve beside our friends, we hug neighbours and are so pleased to see them again as they walk into the Community Centre. We cry as we get over our embarrassment and accept donations. We laugh sometimes as we model our donated new or second-hand clothes. We are overwhelmed by the generosity and the food that comes from unknown people who arrive at the community centres with car loads of items.

We eat food as a matter of course and are very grateful to be offered it from family and strangers. But nothing tastes the same anymore. Like travelling, you are always waiting to eat something that is normal, homely, nourishing. Displacement from a life, from a lifestyle is not about ownership or things. It’s an identity loss.

We are the lucky ones who left St Andrews early. Part of the nightmare puts me back in the house, unprepared for the inferno, like so many other poor souls who have lost their lives. I can’t remove this fear, it’s disabling.”

Electricity pole took a week to burn out
Vineyard. 2009
We were not allowed back into our properties until after February 10, three days after Black Saturday, February 7, 2009. We had no idea what we would find, what might be left. As it turns out, everything was destroyed except for a few amazing items. One of the most insane things was a red plastic petrol container which sat beside the dam. It survived, with all the petrol intact!

¹https://pandora.nla.gov.au/historyachievements.html

13 thoughts on “Black Saturday Bushfire Anniversary. A ten year old post.”

  1. I can’t help but think of the people in Townsville going through similar displacement and loss of identity at this very time when survivors of Black Saturday are remembering their own trauma. We had two power outages today with 41C heat and I sat in the quiet, thinking how lucky I was to only be hot! Thank you for sharing your thoughts memories with us. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a harsh country we live in. Fortunately we have great community spirit. Our house was flooded a few years ago, along with hundreds of others, and people came from all over Brisbane to help with the clean up.
    Your fires were much more devastating. I don’t know how people come back from the horror of these awful events.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tho’ my own life took me ‘elsewhere’ yesterday you were in my mind all day . . . thank you for allowing us into your world . . . shall be reading your words over and over . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I cannot imagine how you were able to write so clearly, or at all, at that time. I read this, and the others of your recent posts on the topic to the G.O. this morning. And went about my day that much more conscious of how precious our life here is to me. Never being able to replace your lost house and its life, you have created a wonderful and serviceable facsimile, similar in some ways as we have done here collaging bits of childhood homes imprinted on us, the G.O. restoring from a ruin someone else’s beloved home that my aunt remarked is like Oakleigh (my grandparents’ farm house) and my Dad calls the museum, alluding to its abundance of preloved contents belonging to our families… and others. Your current home in no way belies anything except being well-loved, welcoming and comfortable. Donated, and foraged preloved items in my opinion so much better than all new… the thought of a brand new house with brand new contents gives me the horrors.
    I’m so pleased this ten year old post was saved by NLA-Pandora, such much more meaningful than media reportage.
    Take care ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Francesca you described the horrors of fires and loosing all with clarity and all the pain inside you. It’s good, that your post didn’t get lost. This made me think of my two girlfriend’s stories that were refugees from East Germany and all the horrors involved and the images of the town of Paradise that burned this year here in California. I can still smell the burning metal . Thank you for sharing,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. If we lost the lot at our place 5 years later it would not have been the same, except the guitars, photos, jewellery and especially the little doggies. But your house (and land) was special. Even I had an emotional investment in that wonderful house. I had walked on every square inch on that property and even lived there for a week once while you were away (that was a little lonely – that place was enriched by people) When I saw it at the working bees in May, I knew that it was never going to be the same again. For the last ten years you have turned your lives around and continued to live full and enriching lives. You only have to look at your fantastic blog posts to know that. Thanks for sharing this. I have saved it.

    Liked by 1 person

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