It’s no secret that the summer has been bone dry. Grass fires spring up at the mere mention of a match, small pets have been lost in the cracks that have been forming in the ground and at our house, even the hardiest weeds have begun surreptitiously rearranging themselves to spell out the words “SEND RAIN.”
At my son’s scout camp last week, the kids who were seeking their boating merit badges had to actually carry their boats some distance to find water in Truman Lake.
That’s why any hint of rain has been met with some enthusiasm. I’ve heard of people doing rain dances, or otherwise pleading with Mother Nature to please send moisture our way. Superstitious folks have been watering their lawns and washing their cars, thinking that the powers that be will see their activities and respond by spotting up the car with raindrops or dropping even more water on the yard as a cosmic joke.
Even on Wednesday, as we were hearing rumors of a storm watch, many of us were a little eager. A nice rain would be a good thing, we thought.
But then there was the wind. And the lightning. And the rain. Branches of varying sizes, entire limbs and even whole trees came down from the force of the storm. Flowerpots were knocked over and broken. Clotheslines were ripped down. Shingles were blown away. Some people saw additional property damage, as the falling trees and other debris hit cars, patio furniture and other items that would have otherwise escaped harm.
On Thursday morning, not surprisingly, a lot of people were out surveying the damage and cleaning up the mess. For the most part, the damage at homes and businesses was highly localized—it affected only the people who owned the property, and once the worst of it was taken care of, life quickly returned to nearly normal.
But one of the incidents during Wednesday night’s storm was much more far-reaching and affected dozens—maybe hundreds—of local residents. A fire at the Excelsior Springs Parks & Recreation Department disrupted operations both for parks and rec, and for the Excelsior Springs Senior Citizens Center, which serves lunch in the building’s basement every weekday.
Fortunately, though, Excelsior Springs once again showed its resilience and fortitude. As people around town cleaned up at home and work, parks and rec employees were split between their building, where clean-up was underway, and a temporary office at the Hall of Waters, where they continued to sign up youngsters and adults for the many sports and other activities that are offered through parks and rec.
In the meantime, the senior center quickly worked out an arrangement with the Good Samaritan Center, just next door to the north. Without missing a beat, the senior center was serving lunch to dozens of people less than a day after the fire —just not in the usual building. For the seniors who rely on the food and fellowship from the senior center to get through their day, life was disrupted only minimally. In fact, the dozens of local homebound people who rely on meals from the senior center probably didn’t even notice a change. Thanks to a quick response from the people in charge, they had their meals prepared and delivered as usual.
A quick drive-by at the community center gives at least an idea of the extent of the damage. A backdraft literally blew windows out of the building, damaging a fire truck that had just arrived on the scene. Inside, soot and other damage is apparent, as is the smoke and water damage throughout the building.
But even while clean-up was underway, no one let a little fire slow them down. They immediately found ways to continue to serve others, without even skipping a step.
That’s what I love about the small town mentality. We saw much the same thing when a tornado ripped through Joplin last year—while the disaster was bigger (and so is the town), no one sat around sobbing in their misery. They picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and found another way to do what needed to be done. They didn’t wait for someone else to figure out a solution. They simply did the best they could with what they had, and were somehow able to get pretty close to “business as usual.”
There’s no word yet on just what will happen at the parks and rec building. A structural engineer will have to take a look to make sure it’s still sound. But somehow, we’ll figure it out—I’m sure of it.
By Eric Copeland • firstname.lastname@example.org