Our downtown area had a fire last week. Before 5 am on Tuesday, a lady in the apartments above the businesses smelled smoke and called 911. The historic building quickly became engulfed in flames. The streets were closed off and smoke could be seen for miles. Firefighters from Alexandria and surrounding towns worked for hours to get the fire out. In order to stop the spread of flames, they had to knock down part of the building. Years of history, thousands of dollars of inventory, life investments, small businesses, apartments… gone. Everyone was evacuated safely.
In the face of tragedy, our town (and neighboring towns) came together. Alexandria, MN has a population of 13,592 people. We are a lake/vacation town. Our population triples in the summer, but in February, it’s still just “the locals.” With small businesses struggling to survive, the loss to our downtown was difficult to see. The day they were fighting the fires, local businesses brought food, water, coffee etc to the firefighters and other workers. People shared videos of the fire. People prayed for safety and for the fire to be extinguished. The displaced apartment residents went to the Red Cross to get help. Fundraising started for businesses and residents. People lost their homes, their businesses, their jobs, their livelihood. Yet, in the face of tragedy, we came together. The local mall offered rent discounts to the businesses, a fund was started to help people impacted, people donated pet supplies to those with displaced pets, food and clothing drives were started… the list goes on.
Sure, you can still find naysayers and people who complain or say something wasn’t good enough or a donation wasn’t enough, but I choose to look for the good. Rose colored glasses? Maybe. But I also believe that if you focus your energy on the negative, that’s what you’ll find. These weren’t just buildings. It was more than that. When I stopped at the local bakery to get some banana cream pie treats, I had to take a picture of the building across the street. The apartment above with the curtain hanging and the rest was ripped away… the antique shop that was a loss, the tattoo parlor, now gone…
It must be overwhelming for the businesses, the tenants and all those impacted. In times like this, I remember Mr. Rogers saying, “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers that day and there will continue to be helpers until the rebuilding is done. It certainly makes us aware of our small businesses. I know Amazon is easy, and I use it also… but I also shop downtown. It means so much more to the person who lives and works here than it does to a big company.
I wish you peace on your journey of enough. May you come together in the face of tragedy. Many small acts of kindness can make a big impact.