When we first moved to our small town, I loved the idea of a close knit community of only 600 people, where family ties and friendships run deep.
As the years have gone by, however, we have disassociated ourselves with many of them. Although Hubby grew up here, and has many family members still in the area, we often feel we don’t fit in. We’re not hunters. We don’t own four-wheelers. We don’t frequent the taverns every weekend, or after every sporting event. Heck, we don’t even go to the sporting events.
With Mario being the only one in the elementary school, we rarely frequent any of the school fund raisers or events. We hit the spring play and the spring band concert solely because she’s in them, and we go to the occasional volleyball game to watch her play. When we do, we usually sit with our friends from the other team, since we’re, well, friends with them.
So we’ve done a good job of separating ourselves from the community, and I’m sure we’re talked about quite often, but we’ve grown not to care.
That all changed yesterday.
Yesterday, we heard news of a tragic accident that happened overnight. As the day went on, more and more details emerged, and we grew sadder and sadder for our community.
Our volunteer fire fighters, all very good friends, were called out to a brush fire near some clubhouses just east of us. The fire was spreading to some of the nearby homes so there was a slight sense of urgency. At some point, they needed to move the truck, so our neighbor, Tom, jumped in to back it up. The other firefighters ran to jump on the back. Tim, one of the other crew, got hung up somehow while jumping on and wasn’t able to hold on. He slipped and fell as the truck was backing up. The details become blurry at this point, but he was either hit or run over. He was rushed to the hospital, but unable to be saved.
Tim was not just a firefighter, he was the owner of our town’s only restaurant named after his daughters. His oldest daughter is in Mario’s 8th grade class. His youngest daughter is only in first grade. He and his wife Brenda are very well liked and have tons of family and friends between the two of them. I mean tons.
So we’re sad. We’re sad for the family, for Brenda, for the kids. We’re sad for Tom, our neighbor, who was good friends with him, and just happened to be the driver of the truck. Tom’s wife, Dana, works for Tim at the restaurant, so I’m sad for her. Their kids came to school crying according to Mario, and so I’m sad for them too.
It’s just. sad.
When I drove into town to get a few things from the store, I passed by the closed restaurant. The small firehouse just across the street was filled with cars and trucks, so I knew they were gathering together in honor of Tim and support of each other.
I pulled into our little store. The sign out front, normally announcing a sale on worms and fish bait, or beer and ice, now reads “God Bless Tim”. The customers in the store were all talking of the news and shaking their heads in disbelief.
As I laid down in bed last night, my thoughts immediately drifted to Brenda. I wondered if she was able to crawl into her bed alone, or if she was snuggling with her girls. Then of course, I began thinking about what I would I do if it were me.
I turned on the TV to block out my sad thoughts.
After work today, I decided to drive through town to see how the community was faring. Tears immediately filled my eyes as I approached. Our streets were lined with American flags. The firehouse windows were draped with black cloth and the flag was at half-staff.
The businesses along the way were also draped with black cloth and American flags.
The message on the school’s sign shows just how close our community is. With the entire community mourning as it is, the school Christmas performance has been canceled. Nobody wants to celebrate right now.
I admit, I’ve had negative feelings about our town and have been looking to move away for some time, but right now, I just want to embrace everyone and tell them how sorry I am.
Bartelso has lost a truly great man. As a community our thoughts and prayers are with Brenda, Makenna, Jenna and all of the family.