Not since watching the first of the Twin Towers fall in real time, the Brooklyn Bridge shaking beneath my feet, have I felt a more sickening, spiraling dread at the sight of a structure fire.
This is Juneau's largest, most central playground engulfed in flames in an act of apparent arson, one of several recent suspicious fires in town.
Immediately social media was organizing to rebuild the playground, although the fire department warned of fraudulent crowdfunding, and has not endorsed a fund. No doubt, the playground will be rebuilt. And hopefully, this fire and the others are in good investigative hands and justice will be served.
But for now, all you can do is grieve, and thank whoever you thank that no one was hurt, it seems. Because this was more than just a playground.
It was a community effort, not without its detractors, that the town came together to create. I was living in Palmer then, but moved down to Juneau around the time Project Playground was completed. It was apparent how much hard work and love had gone into it.
That's what makes this really sad. This was more than a bunch of wood and bolts and rubber sawdust. It was a testament to the best of what communities can produce when they work together. It holds the memories of a decade of Juneau kids and their families. Barbeques, birthday parties, community events. All our kids spent countless long summer days there splashing around in the gross water or skating in winter.
It was a public space that everyone could use and enjoy for free. FOR CHILDREN. Now, we have to somehow explain this to our kids.
It puts a lump in your throat. It makes you lose faith in humanity, in a way. Like we can't just have something nice without shitting all over it. I could repeat how the Alaskan economy is in the toilet, and the whole world is going to hell. And no doubt about it, a little piece of Juneau's soul died tonight.
But I have lived through a far worse community tragedy on a much bigger scale, and the good news about a city's soul, I learned, is that it has the capacity to regenerate.
UPDATE: According to a report in the ADN, two thirteen year-old boys are in custody for this crime. My heart aches for them, too.