Joshua Weil, the Kaiser Santa Rosa doc who flies off to serve at natural disasters, is home from the Philippines with a thousand mental images and potent impressions.
Two dominate. One recalls the dauntingly vast and deadly impact of the wall of water driven by the Nov. 8 typhoon.
"We heard people say they didn't understand when the government said there would be a 'tidal surge,'" Weil said. He gazed in pained awe at areas near coastal Tacloban, where a largely unexpected swell about 20 feet high swept away virtually everything and everybody in its path.
Weil, who served for two weeks with the team of Kaiser Permanente volunteers he directed, found the devastation to be even more widespread than that he witnessed in Haiti shortly after the earthquake of January 2010.
He helped to treat more than 3,000 Filipinos. At this point, more than a month after Typhoon Haiyan, he and the other volunteers saw mostly people injured while clearing debris or rebuilding, and people for whom medical care is a luxury and who sought to be examined and perhaps given some vitamins or Tylenol.
"Everybody was appreciative," Weil said.
His second greatest impression: the resilience of the stricken Filipinos. Though the challenges of reconstruction are huge, he found people hard at work rebuilding their simple homes and lives.
He often read and heard the exhortations "Bangon!" — Rise Up — and "Tindog!" — Stand Up.
"That's kind of what the people were doing. They were rallying. They were determined to carry on."
REDWOOD REBORN: It was sad for Slater Middle School kids and other passers-by to witness the felling of an ailing redwood tree in a yard on Sonoma Avenue.
But residents Rich and Karla Reid purposely left a stump taller than a man. Today, people passing by enjoy seeing a woodcarver's flair transform what's left of the tree into a piece of fanciful and forever art.
So far there are tower steps, a gnome and, on top, a floral flourish. Much of the rest of the tree will reappear in the yard as raised beds.
IT'S RED, IT FLIES and come Saturday morning (weather permitting) a REACH ambulance-helicopter will deliver the master elf to the Sonoma County Airport.
Santa Claus is set to touch down at about 10:30 and to listen to children's Christmas wishes at the Pacific Coast Air Museum until 4.
REACH and the Active 20-30 Club are working with the public, nonprofit PCAM to get Santa here safely and lawfully. Flying reindeer and an open-air sleigh don't cut it with the FAA.
(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here