Monday, May 18, 2009

Unforgettable Sunday

This is the church I've been going to here in Boston, the oldest Latter-day Saint chapel in New England. There are 3 single's wards that keep this building busy, and all of us were combined together on Sunday for Stake conference. While we were watching the broadcast from Salt Lake the fire alarms went off, and everyone casually went outside. Alison told me she was going to run to the bathroom first (she her!) but I could already smell smoke and told her I thought there really was a fire.

We all gathered outside and I noticed a really small flame on the front corner of the building. Church leaders came out and told us we needed to move across the street, and then I noticed smoke coming out of the opposite corner. The fire had been burning throughout the entire attic by that time, and everyone was realizing it as we backed away and looked at the smoking church.

I took this picture (above) from my phone when the roof started to give; the flames became huge and spread quickly once they got air. Everyone just watched in disbelief and listened to the firemen come. It all felt unreal.

We watched the firemen break through the roof and shatter windows to be able to fight the fire; they sent a constant stream of water through the steeple to keep it from catching fire and falling. Members started helping the church's neighbors take belongings out of their house in case the fire spread. The reality of it all finally hit me when I realized the firemen's first priority was containing the fire rather than putting it out -- they knew the building was gone.

We watched for hours. Neighbors were so sweet to come around with cups of water and juice, carrot sticks, and words of sympathy. Many offered their homes for anyone who needed them.

The Quaker church across the street was incredibly sweet through the whole thing. They offered any help they could give and let us move any books and paintings we could save into their building. They also let our priesthood leaders hold a meeting in their building that afternoon to figure out where to go from here.

We made an assembly line from the church to the Quaker building to save whatever books we could from the institute. I loved everything about this--everyone was so grateful to just be able to do something, and everyone started clapping when a fireman came outside with a large painting of Christ that hadn't been burned. Kristina and I are near the end, waiting for the books to reach us. A couple girls out here are studying book conservation, and I loved watching them offer their talents and immediately start salvaging the damaged books. You never know when your talents will be needed :)

We drove back over to the church that evening and saw the lonely steeple and brick walls. The building was completely gutted, I've never seen anything like it before.

There were still a lot of firemen and church members around, saving anything they could and clearing things out. I was so sad for the half-burned piano. The whole experience was so unreal, but I learned a lot from it. When we all stood together and helplessly watched the fire come through the roof I thought about members in the early days of the church, and tried to imagine how they endured the horrible persecution they were faced with. They constantly gave all they had to the church; I cannot imagine having to leave everything behind and walk away from a burning home like so many did. I read an article published just today that said they have confirmed the fire was accidental; I have a strengthened respect for those early church members who saw what I saw yesterday from a victim's point of view.

Alison and I talked about how seeing our church burn gave us a feeling we'd never felt before -- it was a loss of something extremely close to us, but it's a type of mourning that's very different. It's not like mourning the loss of a person, but it's still losing something irreplaceable and something real. There were a lot of memories for many people in that building, and those can't be rebuilt.

Here's local coverage of the day:

Random: Mitt Romney and his wife came by the church that day, and so did Jennifer Garner. She has a house down the block from the chapel. Crazy!

Thanks to the Boston Globe and this Picasa Album for the first few pictures.


  1. Mad, thank you for this. I loved it. Come back to Thanks.

  2. First you study abroad in England, then your church burns down. All the fun stuff happens to you!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...