It’s amazing how fast news travels.
You’d think that the hometown goings-on from Montana, over 5000 miles and seven hours away from Ireland, would take a while to reach me. I know the mail certainly drags from here to there.
But not when it’s important, I guess – not when it’s something that really matters.
So I was shocked and dismayed last night, literally moments before heading out the door for Frank’s film fundraiser, to find out about a major explosion on Main Street in Bozeman that had happened only hours earlier.
It was “just” a gas explosion that “just” destroyed three buildings and at least six businesses. Currently, there were no injuries or casualties reported, “just” a missing woman. In the grand scheme of world news, this is a calamity, yes, but not a tragedy, and I think we are all thankful for that.
But still, to me, especially living so far away from those streets on which I grew up, this is immensely sad.
In my ripe old age of nearly 27, I’ve been realizing more and more just how important history is to humanity. Each place I live is older and older, civilizationally speaking (if that is even a word!). Here in Drogheda, I can see a 300 year-old prison wall and the remnants of Medieval Magdalene’s Tower out our front window, and I know that just a few miles away are ancient tombs older than the Pyramids. In Indianapolis, I soaked up tales of the Underground Railroad and The Civil War, while admiring buildings that dated back hundreds of years. And Bozeman? It still blows my mind that my hometown was little more than a row of tents in the 1870s. I think about the Gold Rush, stagecoaches and Indian raids going on in the Wild West of Bozeman… which was really not that long ago.
So it makes me sad when I see the history of that town, young as it is, turning to dust and smoke in a freak explosion! I know civilisations come and go and rise and fall… but there is so little left as it is! These businesses were some of my favorites, and were housed in some of Bozeman’s oldest brick-and-wood false-front structures. I am glad for the safety of the town and the capabilities of the city employees to put out the fires and turn off the gas… I am very thankful. But I’m sad that I won’t get to see the Rocking R Bar, or Boodles, or Lilly Lu, or the American Legion, or the Montana Trails Art Gallery, anymore. At least not in their beautiful, whole and original forms.
And this makes me feel even stronger about historic preservation.
Bozeman has already lost some of its finest mansions, the Opera House, hotels, schools… and the town is not even 200 years old! Indianapolis was the same – just look at the photography in “Indianapolis: Then and Now.” It literally makes my stomach ache, to think of losing the past so blindly! I do understand – fires happen, costs to update are staggering, and, to be blunt, sometimes old buildings just aren’t that attractive! But there has to be a way to make it right to our forefathers (and mothers) who worked and built and lived and died to pave the way.
OK, so maybe I’m being melodramatic. (I can hear Frank saying to me, “You? Dramatic much?” -sigh-)
But let me leave you with this – take a lesson from history when you think it’s not such a big deal when some old buildings collapse.
Here in town they’ve recently uncovered about 40 skeletons down by the river as they’re building a new parking lot and cinema. Big deal, right? Hardly any news or chatter about it (though here is one speculative article). Then I found out the bodies might be ancient – perhaps not just hundreds of years old, but possibly thousands. And the construction has been stopped several times, only to resume soon after. Furthermore, I found out that there was a similar situation years back when the neighboring shopping centre was built. As they were laying the foundation where Scotch Hall sits, next to the river, they found remnants of an ancient civilisation, probably as old as the neolithic tomb of Newgrange. There was talk, as the building proceeded, that the site would be preserved and glass floors would be installed in the mall so shoppers could witness the historical wonders that lay beneath. That was several years ago – Scotch Hall is finished and full and the floors are plain tiles. And no one talks about it, seems to care, or possibly even knows.
Time, just like news, travels faster than you think, and before you know it, our young history will be ancient… and what will we be leaving behind for our descendants to learn from?
OK, I’m getting off my soapbox now. 🙂