Preserving Memories

July 11, 2012 • United States

Samaritan's Purse volunteers help a family recover treasures they thought were lost in the Colorado wildfire

The terrible fire might have claimed Russ and Trudy Franklin’s home in Estes Park, Colorado, but it couldn’t claim their spirit.

Theirs was one of the 259 houses destroyed in the High Park Fire, which burned nearly 88,000 acres in an area west of Fort Collins. And they are one of the dozens of families helped by Samaritan’s Purse, as we respond to fires in Colorado and New Mexico, and flooding in Minnesota and Florida.

It was almost Independence Day when a team of Samaritan’s Purse volunteers trudged uphill through ankle-deep ashes, sweating inside their Tyvek suits in the 90-degree heat. They couldn’t bring back the Franklin’s home. But they could sift through the debris and recover precious belongings and memories.

“Be sure and wipe your feet before you come in,” Russ said with a smile when the volunteers arrived.

Trudy wasn’t quite as light-hearted. She paused at the stone foundation—all that remained of their home of 21 years—and fought to compose herself.

The team leader was Dennis Robinson, a veteran of many disaster responses with Samaritan’s Purse. Dennis chooses to live out of a van he calls the “yellow banana,” in part so he can come immediately to volunteer when people need help.

Dennis is a big man, with a gruff exterior that does little to disguise his big heart. He makes it clear that he and his team are working in the Name of Jesus, and to let people affected by disaster know that God has not forgotten them. He knew what to do.

“I’m going to have to break my rule and give you a hug,” he said, before engulfing Trudy in a big, brotherly embrace.

The Franklins are a close-knit, hard-working family. Russ is the horticulturalist for the city of Estes Park. Trudy works as a waitress at a BBQ restaurant. Their son, Ryan, works as an electric utility lineman in Texas. Their 18-year-old daughter, Emily, works at the same restaurant as Trudy, and was just certified as a volunteer firefighter.

Trudy was in Texas for the birth was Ryan’s first child when Emily called to tell her their house had burned down. It was a difficult loss, but they faced it with courage.

As the Samaritan’s Purse volunteers began working, Trudy asked Emily and Alex to drive to the hardware store to buy an American flag.

“It’s the Fourth of July, and we’re rising from the ashes,” she said.

Ryan, who had returned home to help his parents, climbed a scorched pine tree and attached the flag.

Meanwhile, the volunteers methodically sifted through the debris, recovering things the Franklins thought were lost forever.

“The volunteers, they’re feeling it with us,” Trudy said. “They’re saving our history. They’re not bulldozers. They’re doing it for us so I don’t have to lose all the memories.”