A family on vacation, an iconic house on the lake, a rogue storm. That was the brew that congealed this past Sunday that led to a devastating fire that destroyed a house, brought neighbors and volunteers together and shattered one family's dreams.
Out of seemingly nowhere, the lightning bolt came from what appeared to be a sunny sky. An entire neighborhood of birds took flight. Geese and herons abandoned their lakeside haunts and sunbathers ran for cover.
In a flash of light, the bucolic afternoon turned into a frenzy of action and dire consequence.
A house was lost, but a community was reborn. Only in America would such an event cause normal ordinary people to abandon their activities to rush to the aid of a fellow citizen. Three teams of volunteers from Tega Cay, Riverview and Flint Hill fire departments descended upon this narrow inlet to rush in where others dare not go - into an inferno!
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Volunteer police and EMTs were there to support the firefighters. Neighbors opened up their homes for relief stations and to feed the weary volunteers. Everybody prayed that no one was injured or killed in the process.
The local newspapers and TV stations sent their reporters and photographers to capture the events; they even showed the cat and hamster that had been rescued. What was not mentioned was that volunteers - salesmen, plumbers, general contractors, nurses, retirees and others - put aside their needs, their tasks, to rush into a nightmare of a situation to try to salvage a family's belongings and dreams.
Two days before, we as a nation had celebrated Independence Day with fanfare and parties. What we sometimes fail to recognize is our dependence on so many like these fine people who volunteer their talents to keep us safe, protect our homes and businesses, and save the lives of not only their fellow residents but their pets as well.
Perhaps we should think about scrapping a useless holiday like Columbus Day and having a meaningful day of reflection and honor these people. All those in favor of "Volunteer Day" say "aye!"
• Pat Pettengill is a resident of Tega Cay. He can be reached by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.