Springs' Koleto grapples with wildfire from afar
Skater tells mom which possessions to pack while in Lake Placid for G2C seminar
|The mountains around Colorado Springs have always served as inspiration for Tim Koleto. (Tom Briglia)|
Colorado Springs has been my home as long as I can remember. To see it so broken pains me more than I can articulate.
I left Colorado Springs to attend the "Grassroots to Champions" seminar as a guest skater on Sunday, fresh off a successful Broadmoor Open and just shortly after the fire had started. My father, who has been working in Albany for the past couple months, drove Tom Zakrajsek, Ryan Bradley, Kate Charbonneau and I from the airport to Lake Placid. At the time, I thought it was a serendipitous circumstance. It was ironic, lucky even, that I would be able to see him so randomly when he works away from home the majority of the year and spend even a few moments of precious time with him in the car.
I wholeheartedly believe that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps seeing my father was what we both needed to prepare us for the upcoming hell that this week has been. Perhaps it was nothing more than chance. But knowing that he is close by is somehow enough to make me feel at least a little less alone in all of this.
My mom began texting me Monday, giving me updates on the fire. It was moving north, away from the Broadmoor area and most of the friends I hold so dear to my heart, and the World Arena, which was a relief. The smoke was a problem, but near our house, it was manageable.
Monday passed without much incident.
Madeleine Rutledge, a Detroit-based skater who recently moved into my house to train in Colorado, was helping my mom "hold the fort." Her partner, Tyler Brooks, was in one of the first evacuation zones on Tuesday, so he and his family promptly evacuated to my house. There was a warning that high winds were a probability that night that would force the fire east toward the city. It was north enough that the probability of it reaching our house was greatly increasing. The threat began to become very real.
My mom began asking me what I would want them to pack up in the case of an evacuation. Some of the neighbors had already left the neighborhood, and my mother, as always, was more than prepared to do whatever was necessary.
I began to ask myself, surrounded my friends, coaches and colleagues here in Lake Placid, what do I really care about? What infinitesimal items, gadgets, keepsakes are most important to me? What can I live without? What is irreplaceable?
I couldn't even begin to answer all these questions at once. For the next few hours, I texted my mom a few things that initially were important; my Play Station 3, two pairs of shoes that would be difficult to replace and easy to pack, my picture frame signed by every U.S. Olympic champion in figure skating, a painting that was a birthday present and Jeremy Abbott's free skate costume from his breakthrough 2008 season, which I have forgotten to return to his mother on many, many occasions (sorry, Allison!).
I slept on it. When I woke up Wednesday and turned on my phone and computer, my stomach immediately dropped. As predicted, the wind had doubled the size of the fire, and it now stretched down the front of the mountains I see every day on the way to the rink. Pictures littered Facebook and Twitter of my hometown, covered in smoke and ash, turned into a modern Armageddon, the stuff of myths and blockbuster movies. The Rocky Mountains that are the very backbone and pride of Colorado Springs had become a molten, threatening mass looming over the city.
I have grown to love those mountains. They have inspired my imagination and kindled my love for writing, snow-capped in the winter and blanketed in fog in the early morning before the sun is up. Tom once told me, staring out at those same mountains between sessions, that they were there long before we were ever on this earth, and they were going to be there long after we're gone. I think about that conversation to this day when the drama is high and everything seems out of control. In the big scheme of things, our day-to-day issues mean very little.
I can't help but be reminded of the glaring truth of that conversation. The things I complain about, worry about, even obsess over, mean absolutely nothing in comparison to the horror that we might lose our house, and that hundreds already have. I've done a lot of soul-searching these past few days. I've felt helpless. I've felt hopeless. I've felt angry. I've felt broken.
My mom evacuated Wednesday with the help of Jolanta Zawadzki and Madeleine. Our house was now a mile and a half from the mandatory evacuation area, with only a freeway standing between the fire and us. On the news they had said that the fire had even crossed the freeway at some points during the night, and had been promptly put out.
I did all I could to be morally supportive over the phone throughout the day, and I thank each and every person who was there to help my mom pack up. My mom, thorough as always, cleaned the gutters and the backyard of any leaves or debris, and hosed down the entire house, the fence and the lawn. She teased me for forgetting my car in my list of things to pack, and then said goodbye to the house we had spent so much time, energy and love making into a home.
When I leave Lake Placid on Friday to go home, I don't even know if there will be one waiting for me. All I know is that we have to keep hoping, praying and staying focused on how we can support one another.
Ways you can help:
Send your thoughts and prayers to those still struggling with the emotional weight of this fire. Being there for someone even for a few short minutes can make a huge difference when someone just needs to talk.