It's really difficult to describe some pictures even if they say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'd venture to guess that there are some who witnessed the St. Louis Church fire in Fond du Lac who would have more than enough words to describe what they witnessed. If you're not a religious person you probably wouldn't understand that for a lot of people your church is part of the backbone of your community.
Most of my formative years were spent growing up in a house that was a block down from the church that we went to. In fact there were two other churches right across the street from our house. Ironically the house still stands on a site that was originally a stable for one of the churches.
I didn't get down to the St. Louis Church until about 2:30 on Tuesday, March 20th. By then the church was still burning, but not as bad as it had earlier in the night. I'm actually glad I didn't have to see the worst of it. I understand that it was almost like a social gathering. People took pictures of the church. Watched as generations of hopes, prayers and family history floated up into the evening sky with the embers. I've seen it before.
Of course I was eighteen at the time, my senior year in high school. Someone had left left a space heater on at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, Michigan when they went home one weekend. It heated up a wall behind it and that Saturday night most of the County showed up to watch the 100 year old or so Courthouse go up in smoke. People were heartsick. It was a time when birth certificates, death certificates, deeds and all manner of records were still kept on paper. In other words, thousands of lives were affected by that fire.
I'm not sure how many lives were touched by the St. Louis Church. Like the Courthouse it was a unique structure. You could rebuild on the site, you could try and save pieces of it, but there are some things that bricks and mortar can't replace.
If you're lucky you'll be witness to one really memorable fire in your lifetime. If you're even luckier you'll never have one that touches your life personally. It saddens me that I sometimes have to report on fires like the one at the St. Louis Church. However I'm glad that unlike house fires in the Markesan and Random Lake areas I didn't have to report that children lost their lives in the fire. Buildings can be replaced or restored.