For years to come, Thanksgiving 2012 will be remembered as one of the most heartbreaking holidays for the Barry County community. At 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving eve, a young man from Golden lost his life. Early the following morning, five more members of our community, two men, two women and a child, perished in an apartment fire at Wheaton. Then, at 4:30 p.m. the same day, a 13-year-old boy from Fairview died in an ATV accident. The loss of these seven lives in less than 24 hours impacted many county residents and devastated the City of Wheaton. In addition to serving as a reminder of how fleeting life can be, these horrific accidents have cast new light on the integrity and courage of our local volunteer firefighters and first responders, county officers and emergency personnel.
There are dozens of individuals across Barry County who volunteer their time to help victims of car crashes, accidents, fires and other emergencies. Dozens more have chosen careers in law enforcement and the emergency medical industry and dedicate their lives to helping those in need. These men and women spend a large portion of their lives directing traffic at crash scenes, attending to emergency medical needs and attempting to save burning homes.
On Nov. 22, Wheaton volunteer firefighters, along with volunteers from neighboring fire departments, gave up time with their families to respond to the blaze at the Blue Ridge Apartments. They missed Thanksgiving meals in order to tend to victims and assist those displaced by the fire. They stayed on scene to monitor smoldering embers to ensure that no other residents would need to worry about losing their homes. They fielded media calls and answered questions from the public while dealing with the loss of their neighbors and friends.
I am awestruck by how these individuals handled themselves and the tragic situation that unfolded in their small Barry County community. I know it is sometimes difficult to find a reason be be thankful after this type of tragedy. Yet, the actions displayed by these men and women make it difficult to be anything but thankful for the community in which we live.