Rising from the Ashes

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About this time last year, Andi O'Conor was on vacation, kayaking in Washington state, when she started getting a bunch of calls and e-mails. Friends were letting her know that a fire was raging near her home west of Boulder. O’Connor decided to head back:

“I would say that was probably the longest day of my life...driving across country. And in many places there was no cell phone coverage on mountain passes. So there were long stretches when I was completely out of touch with people. So I would drive a couple of hours, pull over, wander around trying to get a cell phone signal, call somebody, get back in the car...drive some more. There was one point where I was driving and I thought , you know I don’t know if I can do this whole drive by myself under these circumstances.

So that night, which was September 7th, I got into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. And about nine o’clock that night my neighbor called and said, “Honey, are you sitting down?” And as soon as she said that, I knew. And you know, in that moment, it’s like everything slows down. Time sort of stops. It’s very surreal. I got really dizzy and it was just hard to take in that reality, even though I’d sorta been prepared for almost 24 hours. You’re never really ready until you know.

And then I had to get up the next morning and do the rest of the drive knowing that my house had burned down."

O’Conor’s home was one of 169 lost in the Fourmile Canyon Fire. In the year since, she’s been writing about rebuilding her home--and her life--in a blog she calls “Burning Down the House: Essays on the Poetry of Loss.” We spoke with O’Conor from the place she’s now renting in Boulder.

Andi O'Conor's old house immediately after the Fourmile fire and recent pictures of the foundation of her new home. Her property was at the edge of the Fourmile Canyon fire, so the surrounding landscape is not as damaged as other areas where the fire burned. She hopes to be able to move in by next summer:

Before and after from the first angle:

Before and after from the second angle:

[Photos: Andi O'Conor]

This story originally aired Sept. 12, 2011