Sunday, May 17, 2009

Longfellow Park, 2 Longfellow Place. In memory...

For the past 5.5 years I have worshiped at one of the prettiest LDS chapel's I have ever seen. It sits right outside Harvard Square. It's surrounded by beautiful homes and is across the street from the historic Longfellow home. This chapel has been a place of refuge for me from a crazy city (at times!) and has been a home away from home as I have attended Institute, FHE, many activities and church services here. I have a special place in my heart for this chapel.

There is a pretty grassy lawn that sits in front of it.

Well, today was Stake Conference, but it was a broadcast from Salt Lake City. 3 wards were combined in this Chapel and spread out in many room to watch conference. I was sitting in the Chapel because I had been asked to give the closing prayer. About 30 minutes into the conference the fire alarm goes off. Somebody probably flicked the wrong switch... or it was a false alarm everyone thought... so no one moved except for two guys who went to see if they could turn it off. Well, two minutes later we were told to get out.

Still, not thinking anything of it, I walked out feeling sad that we were going to miss the talks all because of some false alarm. When I walked out, I noticed that the fire alarm box had the "Attic" button lit up and that was the
first indication to me that this might be for real. Fortunately, I had thought to grab the seminary diplomas before conference started because I knew if I didn't do it then while I was thinking about it, I would forget them afterwards! So, I leave carrying a large heavy box.

We all walk out normally... no one rushes because no one really thinks there is a fire. The weather conditions were not ideal, but at least it wasn't freezing and the rain had stopped. Well, when we got outside, we could see smoke coming from one portion of the ceiling. Wow, I thought... not good. Well, slowly but surely, the smoke that came out of the roof kept getting bigger and bigger.

You can see it start out pretty small on the top.

At first 3 or 4 trucks came but they all seemed to be moving pretty slowly. Like they didn't think it was that big a deal either. Well, within ten minutes it had spread to 3 alarms. Meanwhile, we all just stand there mostly in silence. I was in disbelief. This was MY church. This COULD NOT be happening. Surely I am dreaming and will wake up soon. It was almost as if I had no feeling at that point. It was that... or I would have been in tears. I just stood there-- shocked as I watched everything unfold before my eyes.

The 2nd floor of the building went first. It started in the attic, so this makes sense.
By the middle of it we had 22 engines, seven ladder companies, and about 80 firefighters (according to Fire departments from the surrounding communities of Belmont, Somerville, Waltham, and Watertown provided assistance.
Everyone was afraid the steeple would fall. Fortunately, it never did.

Here's a youtube video of the chapel caving in:

It was amazing. I left around noon. I just got tired of standing there watching. The end result was obvious. And, I was emotionally drained from this on top of the events at school last week. I still had the big box in my hands and my car was unmoveable because it was blocked. I slowly walked toward Harvard Square to take the bus home. Of course, when I got there I realized I only had enough change to pay for the bus... but most of it was in pennies. The bus driver told me she didn't accept pennies. I literally almost broke down in tears in front of her. I think she saw my face and had pitty for me and said it was OK.

After spending the afternoon in reflection, as well as talking with friends and family, I went back with a friend to see if I could pick up my car. The missionaries and many of the guys from my church were there carrying things out from the Institute that were
salvageable and cleaning up in general. We surely are a church of helpers when there's a need!! It was so great to see.

But, here's some pics of the building...
What used to be the Relief Society room
The gym
The Rose Window and Chapel

The 2nd floor is totally gone. Everything fell in the middle as the ceiling caved in.
Glass, dirt and water were everywhere.
But, the steeple is still there!
The Institute portion. Looks worse than it was. At least no fire damage on the first floor and many things were saved, but water damaged.
The Longfellow Park Building. Hopefully, it will be rebuilt

When I went back at 6, the fireman said the fire had started hours before we saw the smoke during conference. They don't know exactly what started it yet but they're pretty sure it's not foul play. Of course, rumors are flying.

I've never seen a fire start and totally devour a building. That was very, very scary to watch and think about my own home. However, it was comforting to be there with 300 other people who I know will come together and will move forward together.

There are many things I'll never forget about today. I am still in shock. But, as I think about it, I will especially remember the following:

1. seeing the Fireman ask for help with moving the hoses and 25 Elders in their suits jump to the task and run into a burning building :) ... only to be immediately yelled at by the Firechief to get OUT!

2. seeing 50 people line up to pass hand by hand stuff from the Institute to the Friends church across the way

3. the fact that I have already rec'd an email that
FHE WILL STILL be held tomorrow evening at the Binney Street Chapel. The LORD'S work will go on!!!


Sarah said...

Wow! I hope they rebuild it that church looks gorgeous. I am sorry that happened.

Jake and Emily Hutchings Family said...

that is so sad, it really is beautiful! when we were there we went to the ward at the cambridge building, totally beautiful! i'm so sorry about your building. i'm sorry i didn't contact you in boston. i didn't even think about it! my head is really, really scattered these days and to be totally honest, i miscarried while i was there and was totally depressed and in another world. you would not have wanted to see me. anyhow, i'm a jerk but if i'm ever there again i will totally get a hold of you. thanks for writing, it meant a lot. love, emily

Mary Louise said...

I've been there many times - so very, very sad! But, you're right, Cara - the Lord's work will go on!