A tale of two cities: One that was fortunate and one that was not
August 28, 2013, Commentary By Mike Fak, By now everyone knows all about the fire that consumed the Oasis Senior Citizen center and the efforts to help get the center back up and running.
Photo of Prophetstown from Fire Protection District Facebook page
We have all said how terrible this fire was to the Oasis and to downtown. But we have all also said how much more terrible it could have been.
The entire 500 block of Pulaski Street was in peril that night. Save for many factors including the expert and heroic efforts of all the area’s first responders, the look of our downtown could be much worse than it is. We could have lost an entire block of our square.
That is what happened in Prophetstown Illinois July 15.
Prophetstown is a small community of 2,000 that relies on a community business square much like, Mt. Pulaski, or Atlanta, or Elkhart…or Lincoln.
A town going back to the mid-1800s, the town is steeped in Native American history. A historical society museum on the square told the story and held the relics of the areas Sauk War and the rich history of the region.
I used the words “told” and “held” because the museum and its contents were lost along with the rest of that block of Main Street in downtown Prophetstown the night of July 15.
Early in the morning, two half-brothers ages 12 and 16 started a fire in a recycling container behind one of the two restaurants on the block. By morning five buildings were destroyed and two others heavily damaged by smoke.
In effect Prophetstown lost their downtown that night. And there but for the grace of God and many special people, we could easily be saying the same thing.
All accounts read that the area’s first responders gave a magnificent effort to stem the tide of the blaze. Many area fire protection districts worked to bring badly needed water to the conflagration. The lake at the state park was used as was the water from one home owner’s swimming pool who gladly allowed the pumper to drain his pool.
But the buildings were old and had an in-common attic space that made efforts to quell the blaze futile.
By mid-morning the look of the attractive small town square was marred and scarred with the charred remains of multiple buildings.
Prophetstown still takes pride in their community despite this reeling blow. They have pledged to rebuild and to continue the heritage of being an original member of Main Street Illinois. But there is much to be done in that town before they can say things are back to normal.
Our job to be able to say that things are all right now is nothing compared to what that community faces. Especially if we decide to not allow the Oasis destruction to beat us down.
On September 15 at 1 pm we ask the community to come to our downtown to say hello and to say thank you to all the first responders who helped make our journey back far easier than the one facing the residents of Prophetstown.
It is the right place to be that day.
We need to say thank you in person.