What is a Mud Angel?
The Mud is overwhelming and consuming. It sucks us in and down and fills our pores and lungs. It seeks to spare no one and no thing in its destructive path. It rips apart homes, vehicles, trees and lives. The mud leaves its trace in and on everything in its path, as it swiftly and decisively changes our lives and the landscape forever. A Mud Angel is not immune to the mud, nor is it safe. It cannot stop it and is not interested in trying. The only intention is to help repair and improve the lives that were destroyed by the mud. A mud angel may lose its wings in the quest and almost always is soaked in mud. This special angel has a face that represents pain, struggle, passion, empathy, tragedy, and despair. Sometimes the face represents survival and joy. A mud angel is not immortal but is stronger than most. This is an angel who won't give up and may sacrifice its own life for those in need. That is what makes a Mud Angel.
Mud Angels are the men and women of Montecito, the 805 community and beyond, who have dug deep into their hearts, pockets and the mud itself, as they ferociously face this disaster head on, spending every possible moment helping their neighbors and those less fortunate. Mud Angels have dug babies, friends, and their relatives from the mud and carried them to safety from their rooftops. They've rescued people and their animals and have sheltered them and comforted them. They have cooked and baked and provided for their necessities. They have paid their bills, found them clothing, opened their homes and shared meals. They have cared for them, hugged and loved them, and have mourned with them. Mud Angels define the finest in human decency and spirit. They defy the evil and the tragedy that surrounds us in our world. They lift us out of the mud and they lift our spirits and provide us with hope. The Mud Angels are only limited by their physical ability. They are driven by love and compassion for their community. Their stories are being told and will be told forever. We hope to capture some of those stories, highlight them, and share them with the world.
Mud Angels appeared after the Montecito Mud Flow, an event that destroyed much of the village of Montecito and killed at least 20 people in the middle of their sleep. It happened after the massive Thomas Fire left the mountains behind Montecito and surrounding areas scorched and barren. The village was repopulated as the fire was contained, about 11 days after it began. For many, they rushed to get a Christmas tree as the holiday was only a couple days away. Others just spent the time cleaning ash and soot. Christmas came and went, and lives began to return to normal. Then, a storm started its way towards our exhausted, ash covered town. We knew it was coming, it was a monster, experts warned us, and many were again evacuated, but not all.
Mud Angels, of course, also include all men and women of law enforcement, search and rescue, fire personnel, first responders, news crews, pilots, heavy equipment operators and any one else who has dedicated their lives to service our community. They will not be listed here, as they are an enormous group, and we thank each and every one of them.
About a week after the fire risk ended, very early in the morning on a Tuesday, a freak, massive downpour dumped on our unprotected mountains. As experts warned, the worst-case scenario instantly became a terrifying reality. Minutes after the pounding rain, the loose soil raged with water into the creeks, in an overwhelming capacity. It carried with it massive boulders, trees and anything in its path. It grew in mass and substance, as it captured more and more on its path. The creeks filled and overflowed and spilled into the streets and landscape. Both mandatory and non-mandatory evacuation areas got hit hard, really hard. Some didn't evacuate, even after being told they must. Others, after being told they should consider leaving, slept comfortably in their beds. The massive mud flow tore through the creeks, streets, homes, and beds of hundreds of Montecito residents. Some were lucky and heard the pounding boulders and crashing trees and flew out of their beds. They grabbed their children, pets, and flung themselves into the mud, or climbed onto their roofs, and clung to anything in their reach waiting for help. They were cold, wet and barefoot. Some walked through the heavy brush and forest like neighborhoods in the dark, clutching one another as they attempted to find higher ground. Some couldn't get out and were rescued by neighbors. Some would never get out. Babies, children, teenagers, young adults, elderly, and pets were either surrounded or buried in mud. First responders couldn't get in. Everything was blocked. Helicopters arrived, and people were hoisted from streets, fields, and rooftops. Over the course of the next few hours, searches continued, lives were saved, pulled from the mud and death's grasp. Others pulled from the mud were not so fortunate, and some still remain in the mud as this story is being typed. As the sun rose, the horrific scene unfolded. News reporters had live cameras showing empty lots of just mud and debris. The homes, there the day before, were literally gone, torn from their foundations and consumed into the mud. Cars were mangled, flipped and dragged to the beach. Trees and utility poles down; snapped and shredded. Bodies found in streets, over the side of bridges, on the 101 Freeway, near railroad tracks, and some on the beach. Miles of mud was simmering in the village, on our streets, and our freeway was a sea of mud and debris, instantly closing a 30 mile stretch of our main transportation artery for weeks. Motorists were stranded, some caught in the mud and carried away. Vehicles began lining up on off ramps and on the freeway, backed up for miles. Power, water, gas, cable and Internet were out for most. Those that had access to information, shared it the best they could. Many wouldn't learn of the news for hours or days. For some, everything they own was gone.
Many were displaced, unable to return to their homes to determine the damage. Shored up in hospitals, neighbors' homes, hotels, and shelters, people are in shock. Mothers are grieving, and fathers are searching. Children and adults are clinging to life in ICUs.
Over multiple days, the news did come out and most now know of the tragedy in detail. Horrific footage and photos are everywhere. Some will never return to their homes. Some will never get back their mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins, friends, lovers, partners, or pets. But from this tragedy, a community has united and lit a fire within, and has taken action, immediately. An outpouring of support has started and continues. Clothing is being rushed to needy families. Doors have been opened to neighbors. Hotels have given discounts and have become more affordable and accessible. Restaurants are feeding the hungry for free. And then we have local heroes of the mud, who we like to call Mud Angels. They are those that do a little more or the extraordinary.
In full disclosure, I too have been called a Mud Angel, to which I am honored. I have indeed tried to do everything in my power for our community, inspired by the Mud Angels surrounding us all. During this tragedy, my focus has been to grow a network and a fund to give immediate cash resources to those in desperate need for necessities. As I'm typing this, that fund has grown to over $27,000 and the network we created, has helped bring almost all of it instantly into the hands of those truly in need. I'm proud of these accomplishments, and I hope my children, who have been at my side through this endeavor, are listening and learning. They lost classmates in this tragedy, and they have handled it all with strength, courage, and dignity. I'm also thankful for the appreciation this community has shown to me and to my family. It is beyond comprehension. BUT I AM NOT ALONE HERE. MUD ANGELS ARE EVERYWHERE. WE ARE IN AWE OF THEIR KINDNESS, GENEROSITY AND DEDICATION. THEY ARE TIRELESS AND INSPIRING AND CAPABLE AND CLEVER AND WILLING AND SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL IN SO MANY WAYS. IT IS IN YOUR HONOR MUD ANGELS, AND TO MY FAMILY, AND ALL OF OUR NEIGHBORS, THOSE IN MOURNING, AND TO THOSE WE LOVE, AND TO THOSE WE LOST, THAT WE DEDICATE THIS SITE.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts and mud,
Eric David Greenspan, Angela Noelle Rust, Jacob Greenspan, Jackson Greenspan, Audrey Skultety, Slater Skultety
595 Paso Robles Drive
Montecito, CA 93108
Thank you to Mud Angel Luisa Hyatt for her editing expertise of my 2:30am braindump.