I live in the small town of Castile, a community, if you will, in the heart of rural Western New York.
I am a part of my community. I own a house and pay taxes. I am lieutenant and an EMT in the Castile Fire Department and Rescue Squad. I am in the CFD Ladies Auxiliary. I am trustee and secretary for the Cordelia A Green Library. I am Vice President for the Castile Historical Society. I am a member of the Wednesday Club. I have an account at the Bank of Castile. I have a PO box at the post office. I buy gas at Ackerman's, groceries at Carney's and pizza at Al's. I attend community events at the Castile United Church of Christ. I support the restoration of the Doughboy statue. I am a Castilian!
At 1:46am Tuesday morning, the fire siren sounded for smoke near Lorraine's restaurant. As I started to briskly walk the one block to the fire hall I could see smoke in the vicinity. As I got closer I could see the ominous orange glow in the smoke. Lorraine's was attached to the town hall; housing the town, village, assessor, zoning and court offices. There was also one apartment over the restaurant. Ultimately, the entire block was lost as was the restaurant owner who resided in the apartment. The building was brick over wood with gorgeous galvanized steel trim (we all thought the trim was wood) and had been built in 1882. It was one of our last historic business buildings. The story made the national NBC news ticker.
One of the many reporters on the scene liked my "I heart Castile" pin and wanted to interview me. She asked about community and I now have no idea what I babbled about but I have thought about it since.
Community is taking a half an hour to walk down the street because there are so many neighbors out to catch up with. Community is being able to walk to all the stores and businesses you really need. Community is having your friends and family live close by.
But community is a lot more than that.
Community is the 24 VOLUNTEER fire departments on scene - many for 17+ hours. I'm not talking a city department that has just 1 or 2 trucks. I'm talking departments with up to 5 trucks on scene and dozens of firemen and firewomen. Community is also the 17 other departments on stand by around our county. These volunteers came from 7 counties. Some of them came back on the second day for the continued investigation and demolition; some of them even had a barn fire in the middle of the night and still came back. Some of these men and women were paid by their employers for community service hours. Some had to take sick or vacation days to be there. Some may not have been paid at all.
Community is the bank offering office space and supplies until a new office can be built. Community is your fellow town and village clerks calling from near and far to assist with re-establishing offices with supplies, equipment and manhours.
Community is the anonymous donor who went to the grocery store and paid for any food and drinks we would need to feed so many firemen. Community is the church making more food and open for prayer. Community is the homeowners who brought hot food and homemade cookies to the firemen working on their streets. Community is the family of the victim bringing us even more food to thank us.
Community is even the people watching from across the street - yes, the gawkers - because it's their community too.
I learned a few things too but I'll save them for another time. Just promise me one thing - go replace your smoke alarm battery and then replace it again every time you change the clocks.
And don't forget to thank your local firemen! Please don't thank me. I want you to thank your local firemen, because they are a part of your community!