'You Have Survivor's Guilt': Paradise Pastor Reflects On Camp Fire05:32
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A sign stands at a community destroyed by the Camp fire, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (John Locher/AP)MoreCloseclosemore
A sign stands at a community destroyed by the Camp fire, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (John Locher/AP)

As the Camp Fire continues to burn through Northern California, cadaver dogs search for remains. At least 56 people have died, and more are still missing.

In the town of Paradise in Butte County, one of the most devastated communities, many lost their homes and businesses, including pastor Sam Walker of the First Baptist Church of Paradise and the Congregation Harei Yeshua in Paradise.

"Very few people have lived through stuff like this," Walker tells Here & Now's Robin Young.

"You have survivor's guilt," he says. "You're like, 'Why am I here? Why is my family all here? Why are our churches still standing?' I don't know. My house is gone, like so many others.”

Interview Highlights

On escaping the fire

“I had to go get my mom and dad, who hasn't been able to get out of bed for the last two years. We had to load him in a truck, and while we were doing that, it had gotten so dark that all of the lights were clicking on — all the lights normally come on at night — and you could hear in the distance propane tanks just exploding.

“I had put my emergency blinkers on, and I went down the other side of the road, and so I'm going like 60 miles an hour down the road, while there's bumper-to-bumper traffic on the right side of the road, and I look behind me, and there was a whole line of cars following me. And I hope by doing that, we took some of the traffic, so people can move forward.”

"I absolutely believe that there is something beyond this life. I am going to be ready to talk to people and just encourage them and say, 'You're going to see your loved one again.' "

Pastor Sam Walker

On the people he knew who died in the fire

“We know for sure we've lost at least three people from the Messianic Jewish Congregation. I lost a very close friend, though. They haven't released his name, but we do know that he's gone, and he was like a dad to me, and that's really hard because, I felt like if I had just gone down his street and warned him somehow ... and so that's something that I know it's going to be hard for me the rest of my life.

“I know there's going to be many people that are going to feel that way. I know there is. It's a type of situation that you can't describe."

On what he is going to be telling his congregation when members return to Paradise

“We have hope, and as a pastor, I absolutely believe that there is something beyond this life. I am going to be ready to talk to people and just encourage them and say, 'You're going to see your loved one again.' "


Ashley Bailey produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Jackson Cote adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on November 15, 2018.

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