Friday, January 28, 2011

About the fire...

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES ˜ En route to the Saturday Farmers & Crafts Market, I noticed the artistic creations on the old whitewashed Sun-News storage building. There was a colorful Sesame Street Big Bird making a balloon comment about standardized testing, next to a giant turtle with a scrawled statement about the state of the environment. I saw some blank white panels and thought it might be nice to see if we could get some young artists to paint something interesting and colorful.
But that ship has sailed. Or that barn has burned, to coin a cliché a little closer to the mark. Less than 24 hours later, those enticing, potential-filled white panels had gone up in flames, along with most of the building behind them.
The calls started coming from amigos in my downtown 'hood shortly after 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Just minutes before, city editor Brenda Masengill, the only person in the building early on Sunday, had been alerted by a passing good Samaritan who banged on the door. She managed to file an online story just before firefighters carried her out bodily, still streaming updates on our website.
Heather Pollard, who lives right around the corner, gave me a count of firetrucks as they battled the blaze. And she told me about the ambulances, which, mercifully, turned out to be unnecessary.
Long-time Las Crucen Pollard, and later, Sylvia Camunez and Irene Oliver-Lewis, both Mesilla Valley natives, told me about the days when the building had housed a dry cleaning business. Though we in the newsroom have been regaled with many stories about the days when the brick Las Cruces Sun-News building was a supermarket, so far, no one has come up with any heart-warming dry-cleaning anecdotes.
By Monday, there was still no official word on the cause of the fire, though there seemed to be a lot of discussion around town.
"I wonder if it's going to be one of those big unsolved Las Cruces mysteries, like the three 2010 murders or that house that blew up," I overheard someone musing at the Tom Young pool.
I wonder, too. No terrorists have claimed credit for the fire. Here at our interim newsroom at the Ramada Palms, theories abound.
"Maybe a mouse spontaneously combusted," mused Sun-News business editor Brook Stockberger.
We were lucky. No one was hurt. Personally, I'd procrastinated about storing a decade's worth of negatives there, so my vintage photos are still safe and sound, if barbecue-scented in my newsroom work area.
It all could have been so much worse. I doubt that the old building was on anyone's top-ranked historical preservation list.
But it was my first personal experience with a fire, if you don't count volcanoes. And Mount St. Helens just dropped a few inches of ash, but no flames, in our backyards. We're displaced persons, if only for a few days, and we miss our desks and filing systems and spellcheck.
Still, we've all been touched by the offers of help and support, by those of you who called and e-mailed, people who came in on a national holiday to help us get settled, by those of you at our sister newspapers in New Mexico who rallied to help us continue to get the paper out every day, by friends and colleagues from Oregon and Santa Fe to Maine and Florida who've contacted us to express their concern and sympathy.
And, of course, we're grateful to those firefighters who worked so hard and skillfully to contain the fire.
It's great to know you have our back. We appreciate it.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450.

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