Every time Noah Lowry takes his 6-year-old daughter, Averlee, to elementary school he is reminded of that October night. Lowry, a former Giants pitcher, drives on Riebli Road and looks to his left and to his right. He sees what the wildfires did, bringing people to their knees and homes to ash.
So when Lowry hears the occasional comment — “You mean, there’s still a problem?” — he knows it’s coming from people who live elsewhere.
“It’s out of sight so it’s out of mind,” said Lowry, 37. “I understand it. But if they saw what I saw — the cleanup is not even done yet — they would understand this is years, probably a decade, from being over.”
So when Lowry was asked if he would speak at a March 12 sports fundraiser in Petaluma to benefit those impacted by the wildfires, he didn’t hesitate.
“To me, it’s just about the money that will be raised,” Lowry said of the event to be held at Brewster’s Beer Garden. “For me, it’s just as important that people will be coming together, sharing their stories. It’s cathartic.”
As have so many people who were here at the time, Lowry is part of a support group. He is not shy in describing how his family fled their house at 1:30 a.m.
“The fire was about 100 feet away,” Lowry said. “As I was loading up the car I heard screams. It was like one of those blood-curdling screams you see in movies.”
What happened in the next hour left a forever imprint of Lowry. The family was in their car, going north on Highway 101. They had no idea they were heading into the teeth of the firestorm. Smoke and ash and flames surrounded them.
“All of sudden a truck pulling a trailer flew past me in the opposite direction,” Lowry said. “He was in the lane next to me. He was going south in a northbound lane. We got off the freeway and headed to Rohnert Park.”
The family was not allowed to re-enter their home for three months, the smoke damage was so severe.
“I couldn’t sleep for weeks,” he said. “I couldn’t get those screams out of my mind.”
With Lowry looking for some light moments, ones framed with laughter and excitement, the auction of sports memorabilia for him feels like throwing a fastball strike down and away.
“To be around people who want a good time and are there to help people, to do it for the right reason,” Lowry said, “it’s one of the reasons I love Sonoma County.”
That Stephen Curry basketball, that Joe Montana football, that Buster Posey jersey — those and 51 other items will have an affect on Lowry that is uniquely his own.
Lowry turned 37 on Oct. 10, the second full day of the fires.
“It’s a birthday I’ll never forget,” he said.