Thursday, April 10, 2008
I’d never seen or experienced such a wide range of emotions Thursday night and Friday morning.
My cell phone vibrated about 9:25 p.m. Thursday, just as I had finishing watching a spectacular performance of “Beauty and the Beast” at Marshall Academy.
My daughter Emma played Cogsworth. All of the Patriot Performers really wowed the large crowd.
We were receiving congratulations on Emma’s behalf. We were celebrating – sharing smiles and hugs.
We had friends as guests. They were amazed at the talent at such a small school.
I was so happy – a proud father to say the least.
The caller to my cell phone, good friend and photographer Ronnie Day, asked, “Are you over on Cuba Street?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m still at the school. What’s going on?”
He told me a house had exploded and a baby was missing.
I suddenly went from joy to shock and concern.
After dropping friends Rubye Del and Roy off at the office to get their vehicle, I rushed over to the Cuba Street area – some two and a half hours after the explosion.
It took me some time to actually get to the location. I was told by authorities (who were doing a great job of securing the scene) that I could park and walk from near Salem Avenue, but instead I chose to find an alternate path. I circled some and finally made it in from beside Sam Coopwood Park, after battling heavy traffic.
I thought I’d seen it all in my 25 years of working in community journalism. I’ve covered a triple homicide, a truck running off a bridge into the river below, terrible wrecks, deadly fires, ice storms, murder trials, shootings, marijuana busts and so forth.
I’d never seen anything like what I saw on Cuba Street – a house in pieces and rescue workers battling smoke, rain, darkness, ashes, debris and additional fire, trying desperately to find a 9-month-old child. Three family members had already been rushed to The Med.
Family members, friends, neighbors and others watched from behind the “Do Not Cross This Line” tape. There was a somberness around the scene I’d never experienced.
Turning to my job, I shot photos, but to be honest, my mind really wasn’t in it. My thoughts and prayers were with the family members who were trying to endure during great tragedy.
I thought about my own children – how precious they are.
I also thought about the special person it takes to be a fireman, a policeman, an EMT. It’s a calling. Please, don’t ever take these dedicated individuals for granted.
I saw them up close during a portion of those 15 hours on Cuba Street. I saw their expertise, their hard work, their caring and compassion, their sweat and their tears.
Then, thank God, I saw their happiness and their cheers at 10:30 Friday morning when the baby was found alive in the rubble and started crying.
I saw family members and neighbors rejoice. I saw them rush to the firefighters after the ambulance had departed and hug them and repeatedly tell them, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much.”
I didn’t know the family members and neighbors personally but some were hugging me, too.
I was overwhelmed – what an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved.
Suddenly, in the past 15 hours, a community had grown to an entire city and beyond. Prayers of support came from near and far.
I offered congratulations to the family and to the rescue workers. Everyone was exhausted – drained mentally and physically – but suddenly their weariness was replaced by a wonderful celebration.
This is simply an amazing story - the most amazing I’ve ever witnessed.
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