By Kathy Van Velzen
Special to the Independent
T’was three days before Christmas and not a creature was stirring because it was the middle of the night.
The rain sounded like hail and had awakened me and my cat, Hennessey. There was such a clatter, we knew
something was the matter.
I sprang to my feet and looked out to the street. With flashlight in hand I saw my good neighbor (not Saint Nick), running in mud covering his feet.
Ron was fast asleep. “Wake up!” I hollered at him. “The mud is coming down. Help, help!”
He pulled on some clothes and stepped into his boots. “Find the shovels, and buckets. We’ve got to keep the drain clear of all this debris!” Ron was yelling.
Other men came out into the storm to help while I held the flashlight. I am now soaking wet as I look at the hill and realize in a panic. “Where are the women who live up there? Go get them up!”
The men waded through mud to rescue other neighbors. Were they sleeping? Then in my panic, I called 911. Everyone was yelling and shoveling mud. Then all of a sudden I saw my friends, Marcie and Allison being helped through the mud. Marcie was carrying her English bull dog, Bentley. Allison waded back for her cats. “Come, Paws. Hurry BooBoo. Run, Kid run!” cried Allison. I wondered what were we going to do.
“Would you like some tea?” I asked. They stood right in front of me shaking and scared. Then I could see the fire engine had arrived. I went out into the storm to hear what the firemen had to say. They were just as overwhelmed as we were and said to evacuate to higher ground.
Now I was shaking and scared and trying to keep my cool. I flew through my home, grabbing blankets and towels, some water and two hairdryers. I ran out to my Buick and stuffed the trunk full, forgetting any dry clothes or food. My cat Hennessey had long ago hidden himself. I just knew he’d be ok in his home.
It was then that Ron came in yelling, “Let’s get out of here. It may not be safe!” We four people, one dog, and three cats stuffed into the Buick, without a clue of where we would go.
We drove off in the pouring rain, through the muddy waters on Laguna Canyon Road. The new tires on the Buick were slipping and sliding as we made our way dodging rocks and debris. The only other cars that we saw were escaping the mudslides just like us. I couldn’t stop thinking to myself that this was way too much rain all at once, and others were scared of losing their homes.
We found a safe place to leave the three cats in north Laguna. But we still needed a place for the four of us and Bentley. It was about 4 in the morning now and we couldn’t think of a place to go. Driving west to Coast Highway, Ron and I remembered our stay at The Inn at Laguna. We crossed the police barricade and drove over to the hotel. I walked into the lobby first, looking for a room. I had some difficulty explaining my situation and then I caught my reflection in the lobby mirrors. “Oh s—!” I was wet and muddy. On my head sat a brand new hat with the tag hanging from it. “Can I get a room for four of us and our dog?” The night clerk looked at me like I was from the North Pole. I turned to see the rest of my crew sopping wet and muddy. And there was Bentley wagging his tail, checking out the Christmas tree and the cookies nearby.
Ron took over now, talking about the Christmas storm. I don’t know if we were laughing at him or with him. Ron was a sight! The night manager appeared and said he could put us up for the morning and get us breakfast, too. We were so grateful and happy to have such a nice room.
Many many thanks to the staff at The Inn at Laguna. We will stay again in the near future.
Happy New Year to all, and to all a good night.
Kathy VanVelzen and Ron, Marcie and Allison, Bentley and the 3 cats, with a nod to poet and author Clement Clark Moore.