Monday, May 18, 2009

Sad Day

Just before the roof above the chapel collapsed.

Yesterday while attending Stake Conference at our building, the fire alarm went off, just half an hour into the two hour broadcast meeting. I had smelled a little smoke before it went off, but didn't think much of it. As I was exiting the building I started to worry a bit. When we got out to the park in front of the church my fears were confirmed. There was smoke coming from under the eaves of the roof above the chapel and the spire. I quickly moved my car as it was parked right next to the church and fire trucks were obviously on their way.

In just a matter of one short hour the entire chapel was engulfed in flames and most of the building was starting to burn as well. Despite the 8 ladder teams (8 huge fire trucks!) and over 12 response trucks that came to the scene (in total about 70 - 80 firefighters), our beautiful historic church was only a charred shell after several hours of fighting it with hoses inside and out. The building is one of the first that was built in the New England region and has seen many generations of the church, including some of our general authorities. I've attended it for just 3 short years but thought of so many memories as I watched it burning. Our chapels really are our second homes, especially out here as young single adults. It was a very sad experience.

At this point the chapel had completely burned and they were working on keeping the other side from burning.

Someone took this picture of me watching while holding William, one of the kids I used to teach in primary.

It was stunning to watch it from start to finish, but there were a few small miracles that happened despite the overall tragedy. Luckily no one was hurt or injured (although 4 firemen suffered minor injuries), we were all able to exit safely and in addition, miracle of miracles the entire Institute Library was rescued practically unscathed! We set up a "book brigade" across the park into the basement of the Quaker church across the park. It was so amazing!

Many of my friends helping out in the book brigade across the park to the Quaker Church.

The building was still on fire when the firefighters started pulling books and bookcases out of the library on the first floor. They also rescued most of the art work as well, a huge picture of Christ that sat on the wall just outside the chapel was completely untouched by either fire or water!

In addition to these miracles, some important documents and blue prints to the building were recovered after the blaze was extinguished from the completely destroyed library. They had been in a cupboard that only one person knew about. A firefighter went in later (the room was very unstable as it sustained the most fire and water damage since it was right under the steeple) and found them. They weren't even wet!

We were so touched by the community's outpouring of hospitality during the whole ordeal. The Community of Friends, Quaker's as their more commonly known, whose church is directly across from ours, opened their facilities to use, passed out water and juice to everyone watching and then helped us in the endeavor to rescue our books!

Katie Smith and myself oversaw the response and triage to the damaged books. About 200 were wet, so we had many people helping to interleave them with paper towels and setting them out to dry. But still, there were so many more dry than I expected! I was also able to bring some of the more soaked ones that were more important to save to the book freezer at my work, which was also a great help as it buys us some time to fully recover them.

In the basement assessing the damage.

It was a crazy day and I'm still totally exhausted but I'm so glad I was able to be there to help. The way everyone banded together throughout the day to get things done was just amazing. We still have a lot of work to do, and unfortunately our building will not be usable for likely more than a year, but I'm just so glad for the blessings that have come already from the experience.

You can find the photos I've used as well as more here and here (arial views of the damage). Read more and watch video here.

*All photos by Luke Hutchison.


Robin said...

So SAD!!! But like you said, looks like miracles were everywhere. Glad to see that the Book Doctor, Carly, was there and is now taking good care of the books! btw, your hair is so long! Love it!

Jordan & Melanie said...

That is so sad. It's was good that all the really important things were undamaged...

Celeste Pearson said...

Oh my goodness! How crazy! I'm glad everyone was okay, and Super Carly came to the rescue!! That is so cool that you can help out with things like that - not many people do what you can do!

Deborah Thue said...

How terrible. Carly, I'm so glad you're ok. I saw you in the video(you're so cute!), and I was proud to see how you used your expertise to help preserve the precious books and records. Good work girl!
aunt 2E