MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (KGO) -- More than two weeks after the start of the Valley Fire in Lake County, classes resumed this week in the schools of Middletown.
The fire is now 97 percent contained and in Middletown there are signs that everyday life is beginning to return to normal with businesses opening their doors and customers returning.
DONATIONS: How to help victims of the Valley Fire where you live
Middletown is the land of no easy fixes and where the stuff of memories has, in many cases, literally turned to ashes. Homes will take a while to rebuild.
Deleena Williams is just another Middletown resident who met with her insurance company on Monday in what remains of her home.
"This is the process of remembering how it was..." Williams said. "It's weird. It's not real. It's painful."
As Middletown enters yet another Monday since its fire tragedy, business as usual remains more an ideal than reality, although it is starting to come back in bits and pieces.
Middletown schools impacted by Valley Fire reopen
They can't call it "business as usual" when food trucks come to town and serve 1,500 meals.
"Hearing some of the stories just breaks my heart..." said one employee in a food truck.
"Business as usual" will be a long process. Many know it will take many baby steps to rebuild and they'll have to take it day-by-day.
For Rita Caroni, "business as usual" the baby steps she took were up a ladder to hang ornaments from the ceiling of her store. That's what she did with Sandy Mino. Their customers are also friends, neighbors, victims.
"We're are a community of maybe 1,500 here in this area and they're telling the world we've lost 1,200 homes," Caroni said.
"More friends lost homes than did not. And some of us lost lives," Middletown resident Mino said.
Now, in Middletown, actions matter more than words. Especially, as another business week begins, though hardly a usual one.
"Maybe it looks like for people who drive through that it is back together, but I think people here are still scared and shocked and hurt," Williams said. And when asked if she was one of them, she replied, "Yep."
PHOTOS: Crews battle devastating Valley Fire
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PHOTOS: ABC7 News reporters at the Valley Fire