6 Months After the Fire

On July 23rd, 2018, a catastrophic fire broke out in Mati, a seaside suburb of Athens, Greece. The fire took 100 lives, injured hundreds and destroyed scores of homes in the area.

I have visited Mati countless of times, essentially ever since I was born due to our residence in the neighboring town of Zouberi. My first swim, bike ride, kiss, driving lesson - all these firsts marked Mati & Zouberi as incredibly sentimental locations. Yet upon this visit, almost 6 months after the fire, I saw Mati through the eyes of a spectator, or rather, a foreigner. Landscapes that are unshakable in my memory and for the most part unchanged for as long as I can remember them, were completely altered.

Perhaps the eeriest moments were when I could picture families living in the now burnt, abandoned homes. A bed frame, a semi-intact bathroom, kitchen supplies left untouched… these were things that ignited my ghostly imagination. An overwhelming sense of bitterness took over at the thought of how helpless the residents of Mati were during these fires. Delayed warning announcements, the lack of emergency plans which resulted in a completely disorganized evacuation, the absence of fire emergency basics like ample helicopters, boats and firetrucks and finally the criminal unwillingness of every governmental body involved to take responsibility for the unspeakable result of this crisis are stomach-churning.

Nevertheless, I know Mati will rise again. This is not to undermine the difficulty that lies ahead for the residents of the area, but to say that the night before I visited Mati, snow spread over Athens. It marked a passage of time, a chance for nature to move on, for people to think of summer nostalgically and start the new year on a fresh slate. Just like plants have already begun to grow in Mati, so will its people, never forgetting nor forgiving the criminal acts that could have saved 100 lost souls.