‘Helplessness and Fear’: Goucher Students React to the California Wildfires

Article written by Sammy Kaminsky.

The world as we know it is shifting as we face ongoing issues stretching from global health, human rights, and climate change. The majority of the Goucher community has been remote since March, causing students to face these various changes separately from all corners of the world.

Goucher College decided to continue with a remote learning model for the fall semester, resulting in many students taking classes from wherever they call home. Currently there are Goucher students residing in California and first-hand experiencing the recent wildfires.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the 2020 fires have been the worst out of any year, breaking the previous damage records from 2018. The 2020 fires have scorched 4 million acres,  destroyed 8,200 structures, displaced 53,000 from their homes, and have killed 31 people, according to the California Wildfire Report.

Sophomore Nathan Hopkins lives in Santa Cruz, California. He told The Eye about his feelings and experiences living so close to the fires, saying, “This is the first-time climate change has really slapped me in the face. Of course, I’ve always been concerned about it, but it doesn’t really hit home till it affects your own family, friends, and community. Five of my friends lost their houses in the CZU fire and many more had to evacuate.” 

Another sophomore student, Whittaker Miller, recounted her experiences from the fires. She stated,

“At 11 pm my family and I packed the emergency bags and valuables into our car:  irreplaceable pictures, some clothes to get us through a week, and materials needed for online school the next morning at 6 AM. Between school starting and watching my community  members lose everything and or evacuate, I have never felt such helplessness and fear for the future. Luckily, my family and I ended up okay and my professors so kindly reached out to see  what they could do to help. Many I know cannot say the same and are only a few of the victims  that climate change has already claimed the lives and property” 

These stressful experiences are in addition to the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems that time away from screens and getting fresh air outside has become a further challenge for students in California.  

Nathan also explained to the Eye, “I didn’t realize how much I took things like clean air for granted. Being stuck inside due to COVID is bad enough, but now there is the added danger of extremely unhealthy air quality which forces me to stay inside with the windows closed. It’s more isolating”. 

Nathan’s and Whittaker’s experiences with the fires are only glimpses of the many Goucher students impacted by the wildfires. The Goucher community continues to support classmates, colleagues, and friends during these hard times. The effects of the world’s events may be closer to home than one may realize. 

Photograph courtesy of Nathan Hopkins.

Leave a Reply