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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Myrtle Beach Under Fire

Smiling faces, beautiful places–it’s what South Carolina is all about. Southern hospitality, historic plantations, more golf courses than pros could play in a year, outlet shopping, grits and gravy. Miles and miles of the cleanest, best beaches on America’s east coast, all under clear skies.

Or smoky skies this week, as wildfires raged all round. None of the beach areas were threatened, and one golf course suffered some cosmetic damage, but all in all, the areas affected were outlying pine forests and housing subdivisions. Almost 100 homes succumbed to the flames, and 100 more had damage, with 31 square miles and 20,000+ acres destroyed.

Residents were often awakened in the middle of the night by police, told to put on their pants, and head for the hills. Many described the horrific flames engulfing their homes as “the gates of hell”, tongues of fire shooting upwards to 150 feet. Sparks leapt across a six-lane highway, but at least could not traverse the Intracoastal Waterway.

Our family members enjoyed tennis, golf, and languid walks along the beach. Not even the smell of smoke came our way, as it swept more into North Myrtle Beach than Myrtle Beach proper. The first day or two (Wednesday and Thursday), large billowing clouds could be seen for miles. After that, Blackhawk helicopters shuttled across the sky, helping police, firefighters, the Forestry Service, and the National Guard. That was about the only indication that anything was amiss nearby, apart from a few highway closures and a distinct downturn in tourism, right when the community needed it the most.

Against our fun-in-the-sun, the distant, dark clouds begged the question: what is important in life?

Residents interviewed on TV took a grateful and thankful approach, “Things are things. But we are alive and safe and that’s all that matters.” Very refreshing. No dramatic tears nor sense of enormous loss, no animosity toward neighbors whose homes stood whole and intact next door. Apparently, wildfires can be very selective. If tragedy had to happen, it could not have befallen any better people or place than the environs around Myrtle Beach, which I have no doubt, will rise again from the ashes, stronger and more beautiful than ever.

It brought up family discussions. Pasha had a sense of fear and loathing, obsessing that the flames might come after us. One night Benedetto and I had planned a nice evening out, but we dared not leave the boys even with a trusted babysitter. The old PTSD from Russia had reared its ugly head and we wanted him to feel safe, rather than abandoned and threatened.

We talked about what’s most important in life. What would we grab if we had to flee in the middle of the night?

Petya: “My DS, rucksack (backpack stuffed with his prized items), and Bible.”
Pasha: “Yah nee znahyoo”. (I don’t know.) Schoolbooks, toys, and dogs.”
Alexandra: “Of course, we’re taking Misha and Grisha! We’re just talking about things right now…. No money?” I pondered their small and highly-valued allowances.
Petya: “Oh yes, money. And you, Mama?”
Alexandra: “I would add photos, computers, makeup, my purse, some clothes for everyone, dog food….”
Pasha: “And you, Papa?”
Benedetto: “Computers and wallet. That covers the immediate needs, along with everything and everyone you’ve already listed.” He always was Survivor Man.

We sat together on the beach, overlooking the peaceful shoreline, sand crabs creeping out of their holes to explore our toes wiggling before them. Not much we actually needed in life as we saw families losing everything in one day.

Thankfulness. Gratefulness. Enjoying nature spreading before us. Helping the less fortunate, and holding each other tight.

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