Justine Calma at The Verge:
For the second year in a row, graduation at Paradise High School became a tribute to triumph over disaster. The tight-knit small town — where many seniors have taken classes together since kindergarten — was almost entirely razed by the Camp Fire in 2018. It was the deadliest and most destructive blaze in California’s history. Then, COVID-19 upended the school year, and seniors once again graduated into a world that looked very different than it did when the year began.
For the class of 2020, even the near future is a question mark. The pandemic has already taken over 100,000 lives in the US and no one can predict when it — or the economic collapse in its wake — will end. Temperatures are soaring to record highs, an ominous sign for the coming fire season. Persevering through compounded crises is the new rite of passage for graduates across the US. The town of Paradise, California just happened to have an early baptism by fire….
In some ways, Paradise is a glimpse into what might be a new normal for many of us: a cycle of upheaval, followed by adrenaline-fueled hope, exhaustion, and, ultimately, adaptation….
Eighty-five people died in the Camp Fire, sparked by deteriorating PG&E power lines; 18,804 homes and buildings burned. Roughly nine of every ten Paradise High students lost their homes; [Class valedictorian Katie-Lynn] Chandler was among those whose homes burned. The care facility where her mother worked was also destroyed. She and her mother rent a room in a house from the person who owned the place where Chandler’s mother had worked.
Surviving paradise: Through fire and fear, Paradise, California’s teens take control of their lives