Skip to content

Senior art sketch of Sonoma County fires

on November 21, 2017

Santa Rosa resident John Norall, 96, was evacuated from his retirement community during the Sonoma County fires this past October. When he arrived at the evacuation site, he picked up a notepad and pen and began to draw his surroundings. Within a few days, he had been evacuated to the St. Paul’s Towers retirement community in Oakland, where he shared his drawings with Oakland North.

“You go through this very limited experience, and you start pondering, ‘Well what is a refugee?’” said Norall about his displacement.

Norall, a former art director, drew his evacuation at 6 am, the fire burning just beyond his retirement community, his life sleeping on a cot at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds and the views of Lake Merritt from his cramped studio apartment that he shared with four other single, senior men.

Norall and his fellow seniors returned home on October 22. He hopes to make a book of his sketches, to be titled This Is Not a Drill. His illustrations have been animated using After Effects by Oakland North reporter Sarah Cahlan and advisor Richard Koci Hernandez.

Oakland North welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Oakland North assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Photo by Basil D Soufi
Oakland North

Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to:

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top