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PARADISE, Calif. — Hundreds of Paradise High School students reunited Tuesday after their lives were forever changed in the catastrophic Camp Fire.
While a majority of the school still stands, buildings and homes surrounding it in the Town of Paradise are gone, including the homes of most of the students.
"The high school — the firemen, bless their hearts, worked so hard to save our high school and they did," said Superintendent Michelle John, Paradise Unified School District. "The town is in terrible shape, to be honest, and our other schools are in terrible shape."
Nick Foster is a senior at Paradise High School. When the fire went through his neighborhood Thursday morning, his mom told him to pack up everything he could in half an hour.
"They were probably the longest 30 minutes of my life," Foster said. "I knew the fire was coming, and from the point I woke up, I looked outside and everything was orange. Then when I looked back when we're about to leave, it was pitch black,"
Foster was able to get a police escort up to his home Monday in Paradise.
"It was hard taking up that walk up to my house. When I got to my house, I didn't recognize it," Foster said. "It took me another trip back down to realize that was my house."
The principal at Paradise High School, Loren Lighthall, said about 80 percent of the students lost their home in the Camp Fire. He organized an event for all the students including siblings and parents to meet Tuesday evening at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico.
Camp Fire: Faces of the Fire
"For high school kids, they need to see each other," Lighthall said. "If you're in third grade, you just spend time with your cousins... But when you're in high school, their peers are the most important thing in their life. They haven't seen each other since the event."
Foster said he needed to see his friends.
"I haven't been able to eat or sleep since this all happened, and so besides basketball, this is really the only thing I have to look forward to," Foster said. "If I can connect with friends instead of being alone, it means more than people know."
As for when the students can go back to school, that's still being figured out.
"The whole town is flattened so where are you gonna live to go to the school?" Lighthall said. "Paradise is fairly isolated so you would have to drive an hour in the morning and at night wherever you are."
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