Napa’s earthquake: the people we aren’t seeing on the news

Napa was hit by a 6.0 (read, major) earthquake early this morning that seriously damaged wineries, historic public buildings, houses, and people. Unless you’ve been wearing a cardboard box on your head since you woke up this morning, I’m sure you knew that already. Social and traditional media are laden with images of barrels and bottles in disarray, and Facebook tells me that several people I know needed to evacuate their homes on account of gas leaks.

The news coverage has (at least thus far) given prime attention to the visually arresting wine-related damage. Understandably so: just seeing a photo of Matthaisson’s tumbled barrel room on Facebook this morning took me aback, and I can only imagine how their team must have felt when they walked in. It goes without saying: wine is irreplaceable.

But amidst all of the appropriate shock and horror at the wine-related damage, it becomes too easy to forget the people who we aren’t seeing on the news. News outlets are interviewing representatives at wineries and resorts. Most pictures I’ve seen are of well-known wineries, upper-middle class houses, well-to-do folk who should have good insurance policies, or historic public buildings. That’s not everyone. Napa’s fire chief has been reported saying that one of the six known structural fires took out four mobile homes and damaged two others. Folks dependent on assorted retail and seasonal work will be disproportionately hurt by closures during clean-up. So will seasonal agricultural workers without home and property insurance.

The governor has declared a state of emergency, which I can only hope will support putting things back together for ALL residents of Napa County. Still, a chance of help later does little for people without a cushion now.

The media is doing a terrible job of directing public thinking around this event. It’s nice to know that the Meadowood (a leading luxury resort in the area) was undamaged, but I honestly don’t care; they can afford to deal. I care a great deal for the wineries who have lost wine in bottle or barrel. But as we express our solidarity with winemakers who have lost their work, let’s not forget the impoverished who are, perhaps, going to have an even harder time putting their lives back together.

2 thoughts on “Napa’s earthquake: the people we aren’t seeing on the news

  1. As a Napa resident in a regular, working class neighborhood, thank you for your observation. It’s hard to watch a couple of these winery guys say they got out unscathed, while everything I own is strewn across the floor in my home. I am employed in the wine business, and I certainly understand its role and importance on the economy of our town, but it’s people that matter most in this disaster. I couldn’t be more proud of my fellow citizens, who banded together to make emergency repairs in our neighborhoods; who checked on each other to make sure everyone was ok; who didn’t loot businesses but rather jumped in to provide relief. That’s the real story here.

    • Indeed, Rob, and I hope that we hear more of that story as clean-up continues. Thanks for the comment and for the positive news on how your neighbors are acting together, and I hope that you’ll be able to salvage much and recover quickly.

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