Generosity after an unspeakable tragedy – Something good happened in Erie, 8/16/2018

A memorial in front of 1248 W. 11th St., the site of Sunday morning’s tragic fire. | Photo via WJET.

Without further ado, your Idiotville feel-good stories of the week:

This past week was not a good one. Not after a horrific fire ripped through a home on Erie’s lower west side, killing five children and causing an adult to be life-flighted to Pittsburgh for treatment. It was the kind of news that stops you in your tracks and makes you numb to the rest of the world for a few days.

I have kids, too. When I heard about these children with ages ranging from eight months to eight years old dying in this house fire, I thought of my own babies. I went into their rooms, looked in on them sleeping peacefully in their beds, and thought about how fragile all of this is. I cried like I haven’t in a while.

We parents put everything into raising these little creatures. From the moment you hold your baby for the first time and feel something indescribable wash over you – I can only say it’s the closest thing to meeting God you can feel – you know your life will never be the same.

You might have been a selfish asshole for your whole life up until that moment (just me?) but you’re a parent now, and you feel that immediately. You bargain with whatever god might hear you to please help you take care of that little child because you just know you’ll screw it up on your own.

Then, you know what? You do screw it up, at least somewhat. I have. I think we all do. Kids can be hard, especially in the beginning. They demand so much of your energy. They wake you up. They force you to put relationships on hold. They take more love than they give.

What can you do? The baby doesn’t know any better. You keep giving. You give everything you have for as long as you can until one day, you see something in there. Just for a second. A little flash in their eye that tells you they heard you, and maybe they understood. Pretty soon, their discoveries are rolling in like water over the falls. Your kid is learning.

Seeing the look of discovery in a child’s eye is addicting. You want to keep those moments coming, and pretty soon all your thoughts are of how to keep your kid growing and learning and on the right track. Sure, you mess up sometimes. Your kid picks up some bad habits, you try hard to correct those things – wash, rinse, repeat.

That’s still your kid, though, and you’d still do anything in the world to protect him or her. To be reminded that sometimes that’s not possible – that no matter what you do or how much thought and effort you’ve put in, a freak accident could take it all away and leave you with just the memories – is almost more than I can bear to think about. Just imagine having to live with it every day.

In fact, in the days following the house fire it seemed like every last person in the Erie area was imagining what those affected were going through, and every last one of us wanted to help in some way. So we did.

This past Tuesday was Erie Gives day, which began in 2011 as a way for the Erie Community Foundation to market the good works of local non-profits one day out of each year. This year, Erie Gives raised over $5.5 million from nearly 9,000 unique donors giving to 391 local non-profits. Over $5.5 million! This smashed last year’s record by over $1 million and 1,000 donors.

On top of that, Country Fair decides to donate all the proceeds (not just the profits) from their Tuesday coffee sales to the victims of the day care fire. I find myself fueling up at a Country Fair often enough in the morning, and I’ve never seen one as busy as it was on Tuesday.

Not to be outdone, GetGo just flat-out donated the families $5,000. That seems like an extremely generous gesture. No business would have to do something like that, but many did. I’m sure I am leaving some acts of kindness off the list this week, and for that I apologize. I also think it helps prove the point.

Of course no amount of money can bring back a life, but maybe it will help ease the sting by some tiny amount. Maybe it will help the families grieve by not simultaneously having to wonder how to pay for their children’s funerals. Maybe some donations to other charities will help prevent another tragedy in the future.

One final point before we wrap things up: let’s not forget about the heroism and grief of the firefighters and first responders on the scene of the fire, or anyone working at the hospital. Saturday night was a reminder that at any moment, those jobs can present you with something you’ll try to unsee for the rest of your life. These people are the very best Erie has to offer.

As for the rest of Erie, your generosity in the face of tragedy helped to remind me that the world is more than a heartless sequence of random events. It’s people, too, and people are overwhelmingly good.

2 thoughts on “Generosity after an unspeakable tragedy – Something good happened in Erie, 8/16/2018

  1. This is so nicely written…and I think we can all say it has hit each any everyone of us in a different way. I wake up every night, and that is the first thing that comes to mind, is the loss that the parents are feeling over their babies. May God bless, and strengthen them each day and fill their hearts with fond memories.


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