I woke up this morning to news that an iconic, historic restaurant in my city was on fire. Fully involved. Total loss. Decades upon decades of history in this particular building. Anyone touring the area was told to visit this city and eat at this restaurant. It now stands in its prominent location as a blackened shell, sky visible through windows that don’t point skyward.
A dumpster out back had caught fire. While everyone slept in their homes, the dumpster burned, and fire crews came to put out the flames. They succeeded, within minutes, being the professionals they are.
Except this particular dumpster was in proximity to the restaurant’s gas meter and main line. And the meter exploded, and flames raged through the building, and all that these crews could do in response was keep the surroundings cool while the open gas line continually fed the fire.
Gas lines can be shut off, certainly. But the only shutoff valves accessible were the ones feeding other buildings, the ones that weren’t currently ablaze, the ones that weren’t too dangerous for outsiders to enter.
The necessary response was for an entire crew of people to demolish the main street in our little city, tearing deep under the polite roadway with painted road lines that dare to hold half-ton vehicles in their correct place. And it took several hours to find the problematic gas line and brute-force close it off. Only then could the fire be calmed, without that gas line tucked under the roadway continually feeding the restaurant’s own destruction.
This restaurant stood through two world wars, a depression, a previous fire nearby, multiple economic crises, and countless beatings from our state’s harsh weather. But one dumpster fire and a collection of overlapping circumstances was all it took, and a piece of our history is lost as a result. Employees are out of work with rent payments due. Neighboring businesses are damaged and cannot open their doors. Even if the restaurant is eventually rebuilt, clearly no one would have chosen this option. If we’d have seen it coming, we would have worked to prevent the possibility of a dumpster fire from scarring the most historic building in our city.
Our residents woke up to this news, and cried.
A teacher in city near mine went to work and found a noose hanging from playground equipment where her students would certainly see it later that day. She took it down, cooling the surrounding environment, but the flames are being fed from the gas line under the pavement.
Commuters near my city were greeted this morning by a Nazi-decorated flag displayed from a highway overpass.
The phrase "dumpster fire" has entered popular use to describe our current administration. A dumpster fire can be easily extinguished. But I'm reminded of several things I heard during the campaign season: "It would be better that he win the election, his election would burn everything down and make us start over." "It's one person, he can't do that much damage." "Both sides are the same." "The fringe groups will stay on the fringe."
Meanwhile the gas lines under our polite paved roads are open, and active. All the overlapping circumstances have been in place to cause catastrophic loss, waiting on an ignition source.
Those who recognized it woke up to the news that morning in November, and cried.
I bet every business owner in my little city went outside today to make sure their gas meters were safely away from anything that might catch fire.