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Scrolling through random Facebook posts tonight, I saw that an acquaintance posted something about a fire on 3rd and Main in Mitchell, SD. An apartment above Shear Madness next to Tickled Pink was on fire.

“I heard the sirens ten minutes ago.”

Like hundreds of others, we headed out to see what was going on. We circled around the block trying to get a view of the event. Everything was blocked off. I rolled down my window. There was no smell of smoke in the air, but lights were flashing in every direction, reflecting off of windows and buildings. We parked along a side street, and I walked down the block. Dozens of people were huddled in small groups. Firemen were pointing here and there; the streets were wet.

Police tape blocked off a large section. Inside were firemen, policemen, trucks, and an ambulance. The ambulance was quiet. There were no fitful screams. Everyone watched in the still silence.

The scene played out before me. I watched my breath in front of me and surveyed the area. Because the light wind was biting my bare skin, I walked around a corner to be sheltered by an old Main Street building. I didn’t even pay attention to what it was. My focus was the small rectangular hole in the apartment building. Wispy smoke wafted out in shorter and shorter bursts. No flames, no roaring destruction, just white smoke.

A young girl, maybe 20, 22 at the most walked inside the police tape. Immediately an officer grabbed her to escort her back out. He pointed beyond the tape, directing her out. She refused, and he tried to pull her way. She spoke to him, and he stopped tugging on her. He asked another officer to speak with her, and they walked closer to where I was standing, still inside the tape.

“Is my apartment on fire? she asked.

I didn’t have to hear his answer. The sobs that followed were answer enough. A group of her friends were standing by watching her closely. One was wearing shorts, another wrapped in a red, fleece blanket. I wandered over.

“Was anyone hurt?”I asked.

“No,” a early 20s man answered. “The only one we were worried about was her, and she just got here.”

There it was. The moment this young woman found out that she couldn’t go into her home… the moment when she realized that there was a possibility that all of her possessions were in ruin. I can’t say that she lost everything. I hope she didn’t.

I offered help. They said they all had somewhere to go. I wandered away. The short bursts of white smoke continued from the hole. More commotion. More pointing. More standing around.

I got another view from the First National parking lot. Vehicles were being towed from the area. I walked in front of the Cornerstone coffee house. A young boy was talking with an officer. I didn’t stay long. Everything seemed to be calm enough.

Walking back to my car, I heard someone mention a little boy was hurt. I wondered if it was the one I saw speaking with the officer. It must have been. The man who mentioned it said that a little boy was crying because he was caught in the fire. How terrible for him. How shaken he must be feeling.

What a tragedy fire is. It eats up everything it can with no regard. An emotionless, inescapable beast.

As far as I know, no one was seriously hurt. I’m thankful for that. My son is as well. Later, my little boy overhead me talking with my husband about what I saw. He said all he could think about was people being trapped in the fire, people melting.

I told him that everyone was fine and to not allow his mind to linger on such thoughts. What a pure, compassionate heart he has.

When I hear something more, I’ll be sure to share it.

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