On This Day …

Wednesday 16th February, 1983

Fire DestructionWhile this event is not so long in the past, it is still one which evokes strong memories. As a child, thirty years ago, living near the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, I can remember the day that ashes dropped from the sky as I swam in my backyard pool and the atmosphere was filled with the kind of smoky yellow haze that makes the sun appear to be a thousand times bigger than normal.

The conditions that day were much like the conditions in the more recent Black Saturday fires, the day felt abnormal from the start. People died. Homes burned to the ground. Stock was lost.

And yet, I find it interesting that the day was already named Ash Wednesday even before the fires broke out. On the Christian calendar it was marked as the first day of Lent, a period of fasting and praying leading up to Easter, symbolic of Christ’s time in the desert where he faced temptation. Ash Wednesday because believers trace a cross on their foreheads with ash to remind them of our mortality, a sign of mourning and repentance.

I think that nothing can remind us of our mortality more than a tragedy like a raging bushfire which takes lives without discretion. No wonder that many turn to God in times like that.

Do you remember Ash Wednesday? Where were you and what were you doing?

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Published in: on 15th February, 2013 at 10:58 am  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I remember one of the strictest teachers in my high school wandered away to the window mid-sentence. We knew then something was not right. The sky looked wrong, as half the state’s top soil flew over our school. That was the start of a day I’ll never forget. A sobering reminder each year of the way fire can consume everything in its path and impact those many miles away.

    • It’s amazing how clearly you can remember days like that – where you were and what you were doing. Just like the day Lady Di died and the day of 911, they are engraved in our memories somehow.

      • YES!! I remember my mum ringing to tell me about Princess Diana and then I rang a friend in disbelief. It was a Sunday afternoon, and my Tom’s third birthday. I remember it every Aug 31. 🙂


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