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.