“This is not my story. I’m just one story among many.”
That’s Tathra resident John Plumb talking about a plan in the works to compile the stories of those affected by the March 18 bushfire into a book “for the community”.
Mr Plumb’s own story is a traumatic, harrowing one, but one he is at pains to say is not unique, nor the one to be focused on as the district looks to recover through whatever means necessary.
For Mr Plumb, that was to start writing down his experiences as a sort of catharsis. Others are doing the same, while some are drawing or painting, or even creating songs and music.
Mr Plumb says each and every one of these stories is a step on the road to recovery and a way to deal with the trauma of March 18 and its aftermath, both for individuals and the community as a whole.
“I feel it [the book] will help us all grow closer – it’s somewhere to express yourself, for everyone to have a voice,” he said.
“I was living on adrenaline for two or three weeks following the fire, then it got bad.
“But instead of getting locked away in my own head I started writing the story down and found it cathartic.
“It comes from the heart, a lot of feeling – there were a lot of tears writing it.
“But this is not John Plumb’s book, this is owned by the Tathra community – and any money raised from selling it will go back to the community. I think it will help Australia learn from it [the bushfire] as well. I learnt a lot.”
Mr Plumb was one of many residents who chose to stay behind and fight the inferno.
Despite the flames threatening his own property and possessions, and embers constantly striking at his face and body, he darted back and forth between neighbours’ homes, putting out fires as best he could manage.
Video footage he posted to social media of fighting back the firestorm with a garden hose is terrifying to watch, let alone realising there were many heroic men and women right in the thick of it doing much the same.
“Life became made up of 30-second intervals. It was a game of percentages and wondering which house would go.
“It was weird, but I developed this clear mental map of the spot fires I was fighting and where I needed to be. I knew as I was putting one fire out, which one would be flaring up again next.
“Every win, every spot fire put out, kept me going.
“What’s so humbling is that those six families can come home.”
To share your story or find out more about the book project, email your name, contact details and contribution idea to firstname.lastname@example.org.