My name is Suzy Bolding. A fire destroyed our home on Jan. 17. I am writing this letter to openly thank the many extraordinary individuals of the Carson Valley who unselfishly offered love and support during our recent devastation. We were virtual strangers to most, yet we became the privileged recipients of their heartfelt gifts.
We moved to Minden just four months ago, leaving behind Las Vegas, family, friends and an established business clientele. The Carson Valley offered us a fresh start and a priceless opportunity to embrace the most spectacular range of mountains. I never imagined that I would be part of a disaster or that one small community could mobilize so completely, offering innumerable benevolent acts of kindness.
The firefighters had the blaze contained within an hour. My children, Ellyse, 13, and Jon-Michael, 12, had escaped to the tack room. Upon seeing the flames, my first instinct was to rescue our blind golden retriever from the garage. I then returned to the rear of the home to pull out our pets. Within that two-minute period, the home became entirely engulfed in flames and smoke. I was suddenly relegated to the role of helpless bystander, knowing that our pets were all trapped inside. The possessions were meaningless – our animals were not.
The Douglas County sheriff’s deputies coaxed me to the front of the home, and after what seemed like an eternity, a fireman suddenly emerged with one of the singed cats – scratching and clawing, but alive. Next came Sparky, our 7-year-old dwarf bunny, still in his crate -his white hair turned a dark gray. Julia, our other kitty was the next survivor, followed by Lotto, a 14-year-old St. Bernard mix. The firefighters next found our missing dogs, Sambo, Frieda and Kaitlyn, all over 13 years of age. Annie, our Jack Russell terrier mix, was still missing at this time, but the search for her remained diligent.
During this time, my children were supported and comforted by our loving neighbors who rallied around them with blankets, hot cocoa and kindness. They stayed and helped, even though the temperature was below freezing. No one left until it was over and we were safe for the night.
Annie was eventually found in the kitchen sink, where she had jumped, trying to escape. She died from smoke inhalation. The profound compassion displayed by the men who found her still makes me cry. They gently wrapped her stilled body in a blanket, with the utmost sensitivity. Their grief was palpable. In my tearful, irrational state, I insisted that she was not dead, but just in a coma. They then brought her out, and I realized it was time to say good-bye.
Since that fateful night, our hearts have been opened with gratitude. This rare and wonderful community has provided our family with a steady stream of delicious meals and restaurant gift certificates. We have received sympathy cards for the loss of Annie, a quilt of exquisite beauty from the Carson Valley Quilting Club, offers for housing, horse-boarding and groceries. Carson Valley Middle School started a fund to help with the losses. The Genoa Quilting Club has also offered a handmade quilt. My immediate neighbors have generously lent power and water, so that we might remain temporarily on the premises in our motor home. One exceptional neighbor/electrician worked tirelessly in the bitter cold to install a new temporary electrical service. The profound kindness continues.
In Las Vegas, I used to watch news of disaster and devastation, yet I was somewhat removed from the victim’s pain. Never again. I will be there to help if this ever happens to anyone else. I hope that everyone in this community will know just how much their efforts, either small or large, mean to those in grievous circumstances. For me, it was like finding a diamond amidst the rubble. I will be forever grateful.