“As the late, great Tom Petty put it, you don’t have to live like a refugee,” Glen Martin writes for California magazine. “Except, of course, when you do, as I recently found out.”
Martin, a frequent contributor to the UC Berkeley alumni magazine, was evacuated earlier this week from his Santa Rosa suburb as flames encroached on his home. As a reporter, Martin has covered refugees displaced from their homes and farms by combat in the Philippines. He’s interviewed evacuees fleeing wildfires. And although he was sympathetic, he wasn’t empathetic. Until a knock came at his door at 2 a.m., when his perspective shifted.
“I thought I had understood the evacuees I had interviewed as a reporter,” he writes, “even comprehended the feelings of the people now suffering in Puerto Rico. I hadn’t.”
Although Martin’s wife, who grew up in the Philippines, lost her family home to a hurricane, Martin hadn’t experienced this type of displacement or anticipated the complicated emotions that have come with it. He and his family — they have a 5-year-old son — have been evacuated — and have returned — several times, unable to leave their home. “Intellectually, it [evacuating] makes sense, but emotionally, it’s unsupportable,” he writes.
For now, he says, they’re focusing on the present. “We’re living moment to moment, and our vision has constricted… We are living in the eternal Now. We can’t afford to be anywhere else.”
Read Martin’s full piece in California magazine.