Some of you know that my parents have a home in Agia Anna, Evia, Greece (where my father grew up), and we love going every couple of years. All was just amazing.! We enjoyed time with my parents and getting sun, sleep, and beach. But our amazing three-week trip in Greece came to a screeching halt a few days early because of the spreading wild fires.
The fires had been happening most of the week. Up till Wednesday, we were not really affected. But Wednesday late night, we had gone out for drinks with some friends at a nearby bar, and ash was falling from the sky.
Thursday morning, around 7:15am, Planes were flying non-stop and it woke me up. I got my mom up and we watched for a while, but then we went back to sleep. The air was real cloudy and smoky, but again, the fires were far off. After lunch that day, they had evacuated the "camping" area. My dad and Brian went up to the village and filled the car with gas and got more gas for the boat- all "just in case". We had put passports & money in a ziplock bag and packed up a couple of things, but when my Dad and Brian came back, they had told us that they went to look at the fires and they were nowhere close- 30 minutes plus from the village. No one was worried at all. We packed up and went to the beach to enjoy the evening. It was still smoky out, but the kids enjoyed a night of kayaking and playing with the jellyfish. (they don't sting)
Our friends had come down and they were going to stay at the beach that evening. So, they ran (drove, really) up to the village to grab their stuff while we changed for dinner. By this time, it's Thursday evening around 10ish, our normal dinner time. They came back and we went out for dinner.
At dinner, the lights in the beach village began to flicker on and off. Right as they brought our food, we lost all power at the beach. We packed up our food (and carafe of wine...still not super worried) and walked back to the house where his parents and my parents were watching the flames get closer and closer. Their family made the decision to get in the car and drive to Monduthi, a neighboring village through back roads. That was not an option for us. Not only did we not know the back roads, but we didn't want to be stuck on the mountain with the fires. We also had my aunt, uncle, and 3 cousins we needed to factor in.
Around 11:30pm, the fires came down so fast. We grabbed blankets, towels, masks, and our "go" bags and ran to the beach. My Dad and Brian ran back up to move the car out from under the house to the beach, where everyone had parked their cars. My dad did try to run back to the house again because he had left money there, but Brian pretty much pinned him down and didn't let him go. It was too late. Flames were everywhere, winds were blowing, it had to be at least 130 degrees, and flames were flying and landing all around us. We huddle together under 2 blankets and just prayed. Explosions were happening all around us. The fires never made it to the beach- if they had, I don't want to think about what would have happened to all of those cars parked. We could not get to the boat because the ocean was super rough. Also, because it wasn't just the 6 of us, it was 12 (!!), there's no way the boat would have held us all.
I think the fires started to wind down around 4 am....a few times Brian and my dad tried to go check on the house, but they couldn't get very far. By 5ish, my parents went back to the house which was still standing and basically okay inside. It did smell of smoke, but they both collapsed on the sofas. We went up around 6:15am, and tried to sleep a bit as well. At least we were out of the ash and winds. We had no power, no water.
Fast forward to about Friday 1pm- my parents left while we slept to check things out. There was a police officer in the village that said roads were open to Halkida (the capital of the island) and Athens if we left asap. My grandparents home was still standing, but about a 1/3 of the village was wiped out. We collectively decided to pack our things and get in the cars and try to head out.
7 of us in a Toyota Rav4, and 5 in a little Ford. Many roads were closed and it took us about 7 hours to get to Athens- through traffic, back roads, and even a ferry. Once we got close to my cousins home in Athens, they were in one car to their house, and we went on to the airport.
Friday 9:30pm: We got out COVID tests done, and somehow persuaded both of my parents to leave with us. My siblings got us 6 tickets to leave Saturday morning.
Friday 11:30pm: We got hotel rooms to take a shower and lay down for a bit.
Saturday 6am: we headed back to the airport and got on a plane.
The Pandemic has taught us so many things about what is important to us. This situation has taken it a step further for me. I am grateful for every single day we have on this earth. You never know when it will be your last. I'm also trying to make more time for the important things in my life- my husband, my kids, my family. We also could not have gotten through this without the amazing support we had in Dallas helping us through this- getting us flights back home, looking at road closures, and literally just being supportive and praying. My cell phone became our life line to getting out. Something was pulling me to be in Greece this summer. I needed to get away and unwind with my family. But, I think the real reason was one so much bigger than I will ever understand.