I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a joyous, healthy, safe and happy holiday season. I’m looking forward to turning the page on 2014 to see what the new year has in store for us all. Our annual meeting and lunch takes place on Jan. 23 at the Westin Verasa, and I’m hoping to provide a glimpse into what the Chamber has been up to since I landed here in June.
In addition to honoring the Citizen of the Year, Small and Large Business of the Year, Ambassador of the Year and Service Person of the Year, the event will also host the swearing-in of the new Napa Chamber board of directors. The event will be celebratory, but will also acknowledge the resiliency of Napa Valley in the aftermath of the devastation we experienced in August.
As much as we all do our best to move past it, the earthquake will forever be etched in my memory as a moment that defines this community that we are all so blessed to be a part of. I have vivid images of citizens of the valley rushing to the aid of business owners to lend a helping hand — a few that immediately stand out include Mike DeSimoni Jr. and Adobe Lumber providing lumber to board up the broken shop windows, to the gentlemen standing in front of Amelia Ceja’s then-tasting salon door.
As her son was inside assessing damages, an unknown gentleman waited just outside an unsteady doorway, and directly in front of a fallen 8-foot bronze statue. I walked by just as Amelia arrived, and the thought of this young man waiting to make sure that the salon — and her son — were OK immediately brought her to tears. Fred Corona of Taqueria Rosita was walking from business to business to see if there was anything he could do, while his own business had been affected.
Aug. 24, 2014, was a long day for all of us here in the valley. For many, it still has not come to an end. Every day, I speak to homeowners and business owners who are still trying to pull themselves “out of the rubble.”
Coincidentally, that was also the first night my family and I spent in our newly renovated Napa home. While I never went back to sleep — and went downtown as soon as I felt comfortable enough to leave the family — my wife and kids were all asleep minutes following the quake. I mention that only because it speaks to just how safe and comfortable they are living here.
In their minds, once the shaking stopped, everything was going to be OK — because we were all OK. I wasn’t sure at the time, but it’s so true. That’s another reason I’m so looking forward to 2015 and being able to “shake it off” just a little bit more.