An event you can’t forget

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The Cerro Grande fire’s 10-year anniversary will be observed May 10

By Special to the Monitor

The Los Alamos County Council invites the public to a Cerro Grande Fire 10 Year Anniversary Observance at 6 p.m. May 10  6 p.m. at the “Touch the Sky” statue at the northwest corner of Ashley Pond Park in Los Alamos. The Cerro Grande fire was the largest wildfire in New Mexico’s history.

May 10 was the day the fire entered Los Alamos, leading to the entire evacuation of the town site. White Rock was evacuated several hours later.

Ashley Pond Park was a key focal point for many activities during the fire. Helicopters lowered large buckets into the pond, retrieving water to fight the wildfire.

Dozens of interviews, newscasts and press conferences were conducted on the lawn outside the Municipal Building at the park.

The “Touch the Sky” statue at the park was installed in May 2001. It signifies the hope and optimism the community felt about rebuilding and recovery after the fire.

The idea for the statue came from local resident Jackie Beebe, who was a member of the county’s Arts in Public Places Board at the time.

The statue was funded by the board, a donation from Los Alamos National Bank and many other private donors.

Donations also paid for the landscaping around the statue, which today is a treasured spot for the community and visitors to Ashley Pond Park.

The Cerro Grande fire destroyed over 400 homes and burned nearly 48,000 acres before it was finally contained on June 6, nearly one month after it began.

Thousands of families from Los Alamos and White Rock found food, shelter and friendship in communities across Northern New Mexico, Santa Fe and Albuquerque as individuals and organizations opened their homes, shelters, churches and gymnasiums and welcomed residents to stay with them.

The outpouring of support from fellow New Mexicans was truly overwhelming. Los Alamos County has never forgotten that historic day, or the difficult years that followed, when the community returned home and began the slow process of healing and rebuilding.

The observance on May 10 will be an informal event. There will be a reading of a special proclamation by Council Chairman Mike Wismer, followed by a moment of silence.

Daisies will be distributed to guests to either leave at the statue or to float in nearby Ashley Pond.