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Personal Loss Leads to Reaching out to Others

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“Everything is gone.”

Roberta Messenheimer knows very well how life can change within minutes. After two sleepless nights of constant earthquakes, Roberta was sitting in her kitchen enjoying her breakfast when her husband returned home from his morning walk looking quite upset. While walking through their beautiful neighborhood of Leilani Estates, he noticed that the streets were beginning to crack. Roberta walked outside to greet her husband and together they saw that their private driveway had begun to develop small fissures.

Within an hour, lava began to flow out covering their driveway.

As Roberta turned to walk back into her home she heard her husband screaming “Oh my gosh the lava has erupted and its covering the neighbor’s home across the street.”  He then quickly ran back into their home and told Roberta, “Grab what you can and get in the car; we have to get out of here!”

Driving away Roberta turned back to see the home and yard they so tenderly loved and developed over the past 11 years, engulfed in flames from the lava flow.

The next few days were filled with the grieving thoughts of what they have lost. Roberta was grateful for information she received from county officials about preparing to quickly evacuate. She had packed only the precious mementos she knew that they could not replace. These included scrapbooks that held pictures of nearly four decades that she and her husband has shared together along with a few watercolor paintings that were precious gifts from family.

Filled with gratitude, because of a friend’s generosity in lending them a home they could stay in, Roberta’s thoughts traveled to those less fortunate. An appeal for Red Cross volunteers appeared on Facebook and Roberta quickly signed up to begin training. She has successful completed several classes and can now be found volunteering as a shelter worker assisting her beloved community. Her compassion and understanding for all those who, like her, have experienced the loss of their homes, has given her the unique insight, as a volunteer, into the trauma her community is suffering.

As Roberta finished sharing her story, her eyes began to well up with tears. She shared with me a letter that she and her husband had received the night before. The letter stated that the county has assessed their now destroyed home and property with a monetary worth of zero. She lowered her head and almost inaudibly remarked, “Now it’s final.”

Written by Cindy Huge