“Val! How ARE you? How is your HOUSE??”

“Val! I heard about your house! Are you okay?”

“Is there anything you need? Can I help you in any way?”

These are a few of the exchanges I have had recently via email, social media, and in person. People who I barely know have reached out to me to ask, with genuine concern, how I am doing.

My home in Calistoga, California is located in one of the worst-hit areas of the enormous Tubbs Fire – one of the largest and most destructive fires in the history of California. For weeks, people have been concerned not just about my house, but about me and my family.

Like many people, as the firestorm raged, I took to Facebook to share my anxiety and disbelief. And you, the members of my tribe, the members of the content community, stood with me through every post, photo, and video. All over the world, you virtually held my hand. Jumped up and down. Sent virtual hugs. Sent prayers. And helped so very much.

Just one example: I was scheduled to speak at the Adobe DITA World virtual conference. I had planned for it, created my presentation, practiced. I was “ready.” But, I was so not ready. The conference was scheduled just a few days after the firestorm started. Even so, I was hell-bent on doing my part for Adobe and for the people who had signed up to hear my talk. I had no intention of canceling or asking for an accommodation. But, in came Stefan Gentz, from Adobe. Stefan reached out to me, just two days before my talk, to offer the option of filling my speaking spot with someone else. The sense of relief I felt to be contacted this way, to have a partner like Adobe be so humanistic as to put my needs before theirs, was indescribable. All I could do was cry.

I understand that Stefan made sure that the audience didn’t think I bailed on the conference. He told people about my situation and asked for them to think of me. And the audience, you, my community, responded in spades.

My home was luckier than 5,700 others. For reasons that I still cannot figure out, the fires raged behind my house, in front of my house, and on either side of my house. Yet, my house was spared. It seems nothing short of miraculous. Almost all of my neighbors and good friends in the area were not so lucky. People have had all of their possessions, their entire material existence, incinerated by flames. They have nothing.

If you’d like to help, please consider making a donation to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund, being run by the Redwood Credit Union. To date, they have raised over $14 million. But, that is a mere drop in the bucket compared to what has been lost.

I want to take a moment to thank all of you. My customers, my partners, my competitors, my friends. I’m grateful to the community and to each of you for your unwavering support. It’s part of what we do what we do. Content may be king, but people are what matter most.

Val Swisher
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