Marking the Anniversary of 1/9

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   January 9, 2020

This Thursday, January 9, marks the two-year anniversary of the historic debris flow that killed 23 people and destroyed or damaged over 500 homes in Montecito. To mark the anniversary, a team of community organizations has collaborated to host Raising Our Light: A Night of Remembrance, Community, and Hope at Westmont College.

The first annual Raising Our Light event took place last January 9, drawing 2,200 people who took a candlelit walk from Lower Manning Park to All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. This year’s event is at Westmont’s Murchison Gym, and will feature readings, music, and a reception to remember the lives lost and acknowledge how far the community has come. “We know the anniversary is important. January 9, 2018 devastated our community, and there is still a lot of pain in our hearts as we approach the end of our second year of recovery. The community response to 1/9 brought us together in new ways to help and support one another and this event is an important step in the healing process,” said Bucket Brigade founder Abe Powell, who helped plan the event.

“The intent is to remember what we have lost, but to also continue growing the sense of connectedness that came out of navigating the disaster and recovery,” said Sharon Byrne, Executive Director of the Montecito Association. “We want to keep building that sense of community in Montecito.”

Since the disaster, dozens of community organizations have stepped up to see the community through the various phases of recovery, placing a significant emphasis on creating resiliency in Montecito. With new steel ring nets in place in our local canyons thanks to The Partnership for Resilient Communities, a new debris basin at Randall Road is on the fast track to being built thanks to the County of Santa Barbara, FEMA, and private residents, and increased disaster preparation by both public and private entities, Montecito has become the blueprint on how to increase resiliency following a natural disaster.

On the rebuilding side, County staff has made contact with over 450 homeowners whose homes were affected, and over 300 homes have been repaired or rebuilt. All road and bridge repair throughout Montecito is now complete, and 2019 also brought the reopening of San Ysidro Ranch after 15 months of closure following the disaster, which damaged more than half of the historic property’s buildings as well as the gardens. La Casa de Maria continues to rebuild, as its Board of Trustees and staff are working to fund and design a new retreat center in order to reopen as soon as possible.

In the coming year, we can expect to see a greater push for disaster preparedness and resiliency at the hyper-local level, with the help of MERRAG as well as the Bucket Brigade, which is launching a new program to connect neighbors to become more resilient as a neighborhood.

The Raising Our Light event is at 6:30 pm on Thursday, January 9, at Westmont. For parking and shuttle information, contact the Montecito Association at 969-2026.


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