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Life after losing everything

A view of wildfire damage in the Mountain Shadow neighborhood on June 29, 2012 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You don't usually think of a wildfire or hurricane as a gift. But following natural disasters that struck the Midwest and Northeast this year, those who survived say they learned some very valuable lessons.

Last month, Hurricane Sandy slammed into the Northeast, flooding communities in New York and New Jersey, leaving residents without power, homes and little hope. More than 100 people lost their lives.

The devastation caused by the storm is a reminder of how important preparation is. But, how do you prepare for the unexpected and keep a natural disaster from becoming a financial one?
 
Back in June, Mike and Sharon Guli of Paradise Park, Colorado, were forced to evacuate when the biggest forest fire in that state's history blazed through their wooded neighborhood.

"One of the local news channels had flown over our neighborhood and took pictures and we were able to see visual evidence that our house was gone -- and that was terrible," Sharon Guli remembers, "but the good news was that our studio, with all our business supplies, was still standing."

It's been six months since Mike and Sharon lost their home in the Hyde Park Fire, they've since moved into their studio until they can rebuild.

"Everyday is a different day, there are times that we are doing really good, and there are times that emotionally it hits you," says Mike Guli.

The Gulis say that life after the fire has changed for them. They now have a clearer understanding of what is important to them and plan to slow down the pace of their lifestyle.

"As far as finances go, we've made some decisions, we've paid off the mortgage, we've paid off all of our credit cards with the money that we got to have rebuilt the house," says Mike.

The Gulis, now debt-free, plan to start rebuilding, cutting back on expenses, and avoiding getting into debt again.

"It's a process and the only way you can get through the process is realize that 'hey, today's another day'," Mike says. "Part of the reason we were so positive [was] we had support, we had friends, we had prayer," Sharon adds.

And one other thing, says Mike: "We had each other. We're just typical people -- she annoys me, I annoy her, but life goes on."

About the author

Veteran journalist Tony Cox has joined American Public Media as guest host of Marketplace Money.
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