Jason We lost our jobs the same day and were both at home because of the pandemic ending. I went into a depression. I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like we had changed our entire lives to move to Oregon from California for nothing. It was like a horrible breakup, like death. I just didn’t know how to deal with it and I wasn’t sure about our future.
James My coping mechanism was to solve all the problems so that he didn’t have to worry so much. We made plans, like, Jason likes to run errands so he’s the only person who left the house and I stayed in the house the entire time. I didn’t see any human being other than my husband, because we wanted to be super safe.
Jason The pandemic has made us more resilient. We realized we were each other and had to rely on ourselves, which was really intimidating. Between Covid and the Fire, we slowly started to make our own new normal by giving ourselves a daily schedule. And we hadn’t done this before because we didn’t have to do it before. We had a job and we came home, had dinner and watched TV.
On the day of the fire, James told me to come and look out the window and he pointed out the smoke rising on the horizon. We grabbed some suitcases. We took our passports, our marriage license and some personal belongings. So maybe 45 minutes later we heard the helicopters.
James I got out, and a helicopter came by and opened the bucket of water the next block. There was black smoke directly above our house and all of our neighbors were packing their bags. That’s when we said we had to get out of here, so we put our dog in the car and drove off.
Jason Sadly, we left a photo album my mom made for me with photos of grandparents and photos of me as a baby and throughout high school. But I took a box with pictures of James from high school and us when we first started dating, and some of his marching band medals. It was the last thing we ended up packing.
James Honestly, we were just focused on the moment. But now it’s like, wow, what else can happen to us this year?
Mohamed Sadek for the New York Times
Jason We escaped the fire and slept in our car that night. Our conversation for probably last month has been, “Where are we going?” But we love where we live. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival offered to rent us an apartment they found until January at a reduced rate, so we’ll do it. We had tenant insurance on the house, so we have to catalog every item that was in our memory house so that we could be reimbursed. We know we had about 15 spatulas. So, do I remember each of them? How much would that cost? Maybe in the future we will simplify our lives and have fewer spatulas. It’s heartbreaking though, as we have to think about each room and what each room was in and what was on the wall, all the things that we have put together in the life that we have built together as a family. We had a huge collection of books and so many Christmas decorations. They are all gone. It’s hard to think about it.
James I spend a lot of time figuring out what the next step is. At one point we were going to be living with Jason’s parents. So we went there for a week and realized that it was not a good option for us. They are 70 years old, so we don’t want to endanger them if we bring Covid into the house.
Jason There has been trial and error on how to live life almost every day. If Covid hadn’t happened and we had this fire, we would have a safe place to go, and there wouldn’t be so many complications. But Covid complicated it. We cannot interact with my parents. We can’t hold our arms too tight or be around people. Covid makes it difficult to move on.
Going through Covid together and having to survive this fire has given us more license to be honest and open with each other. We forgive each other more when there is a mistake. I might be forgetting something at the store, but honestly our house is on fire. There are bigger fish to fry.