The Red Light to What Feels like the Road to Nowhere.
(Haines Dec. 2020 Disaster – Landslide on Beach Road.)
Front page picture of view down the landslide from the top by: Tom Ganner.
The road is open, but we can’t go home – we are the ‘Red Zone’.
As celebration happens on Beach Road, in Haines Alaska, it is a bittersweet reunion with our past lives. For half of the Beach Road community (Green-Zone) it is met with promise, excitement and relief to have access through a rocky situation. Step by step, they’re meeting their needs, cutting the red tape, so as to have a future in sight. Everyone deserves this promise of having a home-life.
What about the Red Zone? And whatever happened to that term, as it seemed to be a game of red light, green light? The ‘red zone’ is still just that, a giant crack above it, threatening to fall off. This is what’s being studied and will continue through Summer/Fall 2022. Which means, all those red zone folks have a different feeling on IF we feel safe enough to go home or not.
Here’s the real crack in the story, we WANT our home, we WANT our lives to have some stability as being so uprooted in the aftermath of this disaster, while already being traumatized as we lived through this, is unrest at its best. Our ‘red zone’ dreams are heartbreaking and mostly due to causability of how we’re living while in this, in-between. Fact is, we’re not (sustainably living)! We’re transients in our own hometown. Living like college students, but with families with young kids, or age related challenges. Many live 10-20% of our original square footage of what we’re used to. Families living in 300-500 sqft urban dwellings not fit for families of young kids, other professionals jammed at the back of garages, and off grid cabins not meant for long term nor advanced age, unless by choice. That’s not living, it’s surviving.
So, why is that? Here’s the reality, speaking on behalf of the red zone residents. We can’t go home with confidence. The fact that those in the red zone who have had a DIRECT experience of LIVING through the landslide, viscerally feeling it all, lost all confidence in living there and are painfully willing to leave their lives of 20-35 years speaks volumes of what we’ve experienced. There is no ‘going back’, as that life no longer can exist. It is NOT about fear, it’s about trauma. Much like war, if you haven’t been in the trenches of this experience on 12.2.20, you can’t speculate what you’d do. You’re not fierce enough, brave enough, smart enough to think you’d be just fine living there. That’s ignorant to reduce someone’s traumatic experience into willful perseverance. So, please don’t. These red zone warriors deserve a medal and support in all forms. But that’s not our reality currently. Instead we’re shacked up in makeshift spaces that aren’t suitable for a sustainable livelihood of a 2-3+ year waiting period. Yet, here we are.
To go home, back to living pretend normalcy because we crave it so deeply when it’s not met in this in-between is having to write a will knowing we’re taking our lives in our own hands. It’s knowing we live in an arctic jungle and every raindrop adding up, means something. What we would give to have a home-life again and what that means to each family is different, but still valuable. We might have escaped death and for that we were lucky, but this ghostly life in-between is not living.
How can you help?
Share this story, ask folks in the red zone their continuing experience, the real version. Don’t see it as complaining, but educating on what you’re not aware of. The red zone folks already feel so embarrassed of having to have their basic needs met, we tend to oversimplify, excluding all our other needs, thinking they’re luxuries. But after this 6 month point, we’re out of immediate survival mode and things need to shift to represent that.
2. OFFER Quality Housing.
Many of us have been homeowners for decades. We take pride in ownership and value longevity and responsibilities that come from home ownership. That being said, we’re looking for adequate housing and Haines’ ‘supply’ is not really up to par on this. There are many options that could be exercised. For some folks they’re looking for just a year or so of a house rental, but with the option to rent out longer as being treated like a renter, as if we’re choosing this, is unnerving. The issue is we have NO idea of our future and can’t keep on bouncing around to the will of landlords.
Other options are ‘rent-to-own’. Most Beach Road residents are tied up financially, as our assets are frozen, still having to pay our mortgages etc, but we do receive limited funding even though we pay more from what we’re used to. Since we can’t *buy a home at this time otherwise our rental funding gets removed, there’s the option of doing a rent-to-own situation, which requires owner financing. Many prefer this route, given everything would be in our responsibility, therefore bypassing the whole ‘landlord’ status.
*Please be aware that the ‘make do’ mentality doesn’t apply this late in the game. We’ve peaked that mountain and have the whole community to thank for getting us there. Without you all, we wouldn’t have come this far. But we do need to address that although we appreciate the few rentals out there, our lifestyles in what works for us, might be different than what’s being offered, respectfully.
3. THINK Big.
There’s many conversations on what is optimal and not one is best nor non-complicated. Basically no one wins. You couldn’t ever pay us to be on this crappy reality show called, AK Life. As we leave behind our entire livelihood, still many have NOT been out to our homes since January to retrieve some items, and we question what’s worthy of our life? Our possible best outcome is to recreate our community elsewhere in a timely fashion, but even then it’s questionable given we don’t have 10 years to get settled in. That timeframe reference would be my Kindergartener getting his license to drive! So, whatever WE think up, it NEEDS to be supported and pushed through the community, fast tracked as this has been a long enough pause while trying to heal our trauma. Be compatible with our vision in seeing how you can help further it.
So, that my friends is what’s happening in the shadows of 59N°. Please share this far and wide. The more we know, the better we feel, in which we can co-create a beautiful reality.