A week and a half ago, we here on Baltimore Street had some excitement—and not of the good kind. Shortly after 4:00 a.m. on March 1st, a car plowed into the buildings that housed the Blue & Gray Gift Shop and the Crystal Wand, and exploded. A 4-alarm fire engulfed both buildings and it took firefighters two hours to put out the flames. Later that day, the day that the Blue & Gray Gift Shop was supposed to open for the season, the building was razed completely. The future of the other building is still being determined. While the driver of the car lost his life, amazingly he was the only fatality, and all the tenants made it out safely.
A tragedy like this really makes us stop and think. Here are a few thoughts we have had over the last ten days.
- Don’t take anything for granted. As fellow business owners here at Civil War Tails, we feel deeply for the owners of the Blue & Gray Gift Shop and the Crystal Wand. In a mere two hours, not only did their spring tourist season plans change, but everything was gone. We all know on some level that things can change in an instant, but this is a very tangible reminder. So, appreciate the blessings in your life, but be aware that in a split-second, they can disappear.
- Cherish your loved ones. Somewhere, a family is hurting, because in one split-second, a life ended. And undoubtedly they never saw it coming. Make sure the people you love know that you love them—now. Tomorrow morning might be too late.
- Remember, your decisions may affect another person’s life in a drastic way. We probably will never know why that car went off the road in the rain at 70+ mph at 4 a.m. But of all the possible reasons, some are things we can control (speed, awareness of road conditions, driving under the influence) and some are not (vehicle malfunctions, medical emergencies). Even if we think of ourselves as safe drivers, we still need the reminder: use wisdom to control what you can Lives, dreams, livelihoods, and possessions of others are at stake—not to mention your own life!
- Be grateful for our police (first on the scene), our EMS (second on the scene), and our firefighters—and support them. As we watched from our front yard, it struck me how in a situation where I would be helpless to help, each person on the scene knew exactly what to do. No one was panicked, no scurrying here and there like on TV—just calm, cool, doing their jobs, and taking control of the situation, minute by minute, window by window, flame by flame. The Inn at Cemetery Hill stands right behind the Blue & Gray Gift Shop, and thanks to the firefighters’ skill, it—as well as other nearby buildings—remains unscathed. Support your local fire department, even if only financially. Don’t take them for granted. And remember, by supporting your department, you’re helping protect more than just your local neighbors. Crews from many area departments came in the rain and fought those flames for two hours. I’m sure our local department couldn’t have done it alone.
- Be aware of Providence. Maybe you call it chance, but you need to consider “the little things” that show God is at work in our world today.
- Was it just chance that a gym employee who lives just a couple buildings away was ready to head to work at the time of impact? He was on the scene immediately and because of his gym training, skill, and strength, he was able to rescue a trapped tenant. Let me just say, how many of us could do a chin-up onto a balcony? I sure can’t!
- On Monday evening, the wind picked up into heavy gusts. Can you imagine fighting a 4-alarm fire in heavy wind? How many more buildings would have gone up? Was it just luck that 4 a.m. was calm with little or no breeze?
- Consider even the really little things—it was a 4-alarm fire and a cat was lost inside one building. What were the odds that the cat would not only survive but safely make it back to its owner? Chance doesn’t care about you, but God cares for all of His creatures, even little furry ones.
Walking past the smoke-blackened, forlorn, empty building that housed Crystal Wand and the empty hole where the Blue & Gray Gift Shop once stood is a sobering wake-up call. Let us love our family more, loosen our hold on our possessions, and teach ourselves and our children that our decisions over things in our control affect other people, even when we are alone in the middle of the night.