Use tragedy to make community stronger, better

By: The Gazette editorial
June 13, 2013 Updated: June 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm
photo - A firefighter fights a blaze in a garage in Black Forest on Table Rock Rd. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette)
A firefighter fights a blaze in a garage in Black Forest on Table Rock Rd. (Jerilee Bennett/The Gazette) 

Our region again finds itself at the mercy of an untamed monster of fire and smoke that endangers lives while gobbling up businesses and homes. Let's use this heat to forge unprecedented strength.

Like last summer's Waldo Canyon fire, the Black Forest fire makes big things seem small. We see the fire make fast kindling of strong buildings that have long been part of our lives and we are humbled.

Meanwhile, the fire turns to ash the differences between neighbors that we too often exaggerate into objects of needless division. As this inferno attacks, our common interests as Americans, Coloradans and human beings dwarf our day-to-day disputes because, like it or not, we are in this together. We have a common interest of survival and a goal of beating down the attack.

As the fire threatens us and destroys physical aspects of our lives, it also builds us up. We see the best in humanity when cops and firefighters, volunteers and professionals alike, work around the clock to defend lives and properties of strangers. We see the best in humanity when crowds of onlookers line up to applaud our heroic public safety heros as they emerge from smoke and flames.

We see the best in humanity when businesses temporarily suspend profit motives and business plans to make certain the men and women who battle the blaze - and those left homeless by its wrath - are fed, hydrated and otherwise cared for. We see the best in humanity when families open their homes to friends, neighbors, colleagues, acquaintances and strangers. We see the best in humanity when media professionals risk life and limb, foregoing regular sleep, so that others remain informed.

We see the best in humanity when politicians become less concerned with campaigning, fundraising and messaging; more concerned with getting others the immediate help and support they need.

None among more than 600,000 people in metropolitan Colorado Springs will go about their lives unaffected by the Black Forest fire. It's not some other person's problem. It's big enough to be everyone's nightmare.

We may not stop the fire before it runs out of fuel or, mercifully, gets doused by rain. We can only respect it, fear it and hope the professionals trained to battle such behemoths can tame its fury and spare human lives.

The best we can do, in response to this crisis, is make a great community better. Look to Oklahoma, where twisters killed men, women and children while turning property to rubble. Look to those who moved here after Hurricane Katrina. Look to those who must live with the loss of loved ones murdered by maniacs who've assaulted innocent crowds. Look to the survivors of natural and human-caused tragedies throughout this country and realize that life is good and life goes on. We rebuild and get stronger for doing so.

Confront depression and despair in the mirror. Then feed them to the fire and get busy.

We should all look within ourselves and ask what might improve this community in ways that offset tragedy. Some should pray. Others should donate cash, food, drinks and hands-on assistance to the young, poor, old or disabled.

Every person and organization has something to offer. Each bears responsibility for trying to mitigate the damage of this ravaging beast.

From great tragedy emerges knowledge and strength. We are not, at this moment, stronger than the fire. But the blaze will lead a short life. In weeks, perhaps days, it will die a smoldering death. Most of its victims will live on and rebuild. Let's make sure we use this tragedy to improve ourselves and those around us. Once again, let's reveal the resilience of our community by pulling together in love, kindness, selflessness and respect - qualities no amount of flame can destroy.

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