I couldn't handle watching the video on my screen. I could only handle about five seconds of one of our town's beloved play areas going up in flames. Even with the barrage of carnage we see on a regular basis, I couldn't handle seeing the playground engulfed in flames. It felt like violence against children and against my own family. That park had become part of our history.
The park where I took my 21 month old each day after we first moved to Watseka. It was within walking distance for a very pregnant mama with plenty of appropriately sized equipment.
The park where both of my kids learned to climb and hang and slide.
The park where I was dubbed the grumpy old troll and had to guard the bridge while Dora and Boots tried to cross.
The park where I first started to meet with other moms and kids for play dates.
The park that was the first place Watseka first started to feel like home.
And now it stands broken and charred.
My kids' reactions were mainly saddness. With tears in his eyes my five year old asked, "Mom, why would someone burn that park? Maybe they didn't like the yellow park...but some kids really like the yellow park." My reaction was one of anger...and saddness...and a feeling that I was ready to run away. When things get tough and my "fight or flight" mechanism kicks in, I'm a flight kind of girl. I don't like dealing with conflict and messiness. I am 100% honest when I say my gut reaction to such circumstances is to do everything I can to preserve my own comfort. Even if it means packing up the truck and moving to Beverly. (Hills that is. Hollywood. Movie stars.)
But my second reaction was much more productive. "How can we help make this park a safe place for children and families?" And popping up in conversations and facebook posts in the area was much of the same sentiment. First anger and saddness, but from it is emerging a desire to rebuild and reclaim. Not to run away to greener pastures, but to join together and restore.
Today I saw blackened play equipment not safe for use. But I can imagine a day down the road when the equipment is replaced with the help of community members coming together to say this space is important. And those feelings of despair will replaced with hope.
Beauty from ashes.