There was a storm. Like few I've ever been in. The thunder was so bad I gave up sleeping at 5 am and laid down on the couch with Stella so she would stay calm. And the lightning! It was like there was a flash constantly going off outside the window. I actually turned on The Weather Channel to make sure there wasn't a tornado coming.
When I let Stella out around 6:30 it was foggy. At least that's what I thought at first. And then I smelled it and felt my eyes sting. Like I was at a big old bonfire. I had heard sirens earlier in the night but that's not uncommon- I live near a fire station and a highway. But the sirens got steadier and steadier... Stella was freaking from the noise so I thought I'd better take her for a walk. And I could see what was going on. As soon turned onto Keswick I knew something had happened.
As I started to walk up Keswick fire engines went by, one after the other. Then I realized they were just sitting there. From Field Street all the way up to 33rd. I kept waiting to see a house on fire, a person being loaded into be an ambulance, something. Then I got to the corner of 33rd and Keswick (about three blocks from my house).
The Mount Vernon United Methodist Church was on fire. More appropriately, it was smoking. You can't see the number of water jets aimed at it from my cameraphone picture but there were several. I watched the steam and smoke rise off the building in disbelief. It was apparently struck by lightning.
It's hard to stand still when big things are happening. I walked Stella up to Chestnut south of 34th street (also filled with fire engines). Standing with the other early-morning dogwalkers and other lookers-on, I watched people who had been evacuated from their homes, stand in fear and panic while firemen tried to keep them calm and make them comfortable. I saw shingles go flying off the roof as they were hit by enormous streams of water. I have never seen that many fire trucks in my life.
They took down the steeple soon after- it is boarded up and fenced off. Lots of people have stopped by to take a look, to snap a picture, to think. The church itself is stone, over 160 years old. But with the inside destroyed to the tune of $5.5 million, much history has been lost and a lot will be needed to restore this already-struggling little gem, site of weekend yard sales and corner chats.
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