AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGame Center: Chargers at Kansas City Chiefs, Sunday, 10 a.m.Pet lovers – pausing to compare notes – stroll with leashed dogs, crated cats and caged birds. Two-legged friends distribute heaps of kibble. Visitors sift through piles of books and board games. Girls play Scrabble inside purple tents. Boys toss footballs with an avuncular young man, who surely worked as a camp counselor at some point in real life. Packaged snacks – cookies, crackers, chips, candy bars – flow from long tables. Boxes of doughnuts left over from breakfast still await takers. At dusk, the menu evolves into pizza and hamburgers. No, this is not a carnival or a street festival or a fair. It is an evacuation center. Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego is the anti-Superdome, the Katrina contrast. And if you’re a reporter on the prowl for drama, as am I, this is not the place to find it. Stilt-walking pirates clang wooden swords in a hammy duel. Inside, movies play nonstop on the JumboTron to a smattering of viewers. Outside, pop music wafts from speakers. Cheeks painted with black spiders or pink butterflies, children skip about basking in their grand adventure. They carry stuffed elephants, dinosaurs and dolphins awarded them for the act of showing up. Their parents, some wearing pins strategically clamped to their ears, sit in a circle of chairs sampling the art of acupuncture. Others lie face down on cots enjoying therapeutic back massages. Of course, these folks would rather not be here. They’d rather be at home cooking their own meals, sleeping in their own beds and, most of all, showering in their own bathrooms. But they were forced away by encroaching fires. They packed their cars with photo albums, financial records, sentimental trinkets, favorite toys – and scurried off for shelter. They don’t know what has or will become of their houses. Still, in this lively and harmonious atmosphere, they can’t help but beam. “There’re more volunteers than evacuees!” laughs one of the latter. “You can’t walk 10 feet without being offered a bottle of water.” “We’re having an awesome time!” a woman gushes. Then she remembers: “Except that we’re worried about our house.” “Would you like a teddy bear?” a do-gooder asks a tyke. “No, thank you. We’re on teddy bear overload,” the dad answers. Indeed, the images are much different from those I saw on television two years ago. For one thing, there’s no flood and hurricane damage, or any other kind of damage, in the immediate area. For another, there’s a fraction of the number of evacuees. Mostly, you get the sense, Americans are determined not to allow a repeat of that tragedy – at least under these entirely more manageable circumstances. Nope, not much drama here. Just a lot of giving and receiving and the gratitude that comes from both. Susan Christian Goulding’s column appears Saturdays. She is an award-winning writer and freelance journalist. She can be contacted by e-mail at [email protected] local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!