This past Wednesday afternoon, at about 12:40 PM, on our way over the Gold Star Bridge, my daughter commented that some localized fog seemed to be rolling in off the river and up the hill toward an area of town known as Groton Bank. On closer examination, we both realized that the “fog” was actually smoke from a large fire that had started just minutes before...in the basement of Ken’s Tackle Shop, a local landmark on Thames Street.
Being the curious individual that I am, I immediately exited I-95 and headed toward the fire. Yes, I guess I am one of those obnoxious onlookers who get in the way of emergency response vehicles; but not really, as I did pull over to let a paramedic truck drive past. Once I was within a few blocks of the blaze, I was rerouted down a side street by a police officer since the river road had been shut down a good distance on either side of the fire. Just as well. The emergency crews didn’t need a bunch of gawkers getting in their way. Instead, I drove to the top of School Street, the short road that usually gives a great view of the front of the bait shop. Usually. Unless, of course, the entire store is engulfed in smoke and flame. Admitting defeat (and devoid of a camera), I went home.
Around 2:30 PM, just before music composition class, Katherine the Great and I returned to the top of School Street, parked our fresh-smelling Subaru next to the curb across from the library, and headed down the very steep hill toward the remains of Ken’s Tackle Shop. As long as we were on foot and weren’t making a nuisance of ourselves, the police officers allowed us to walk closer to the building. For us, that was about half a block. Smoke was still pouring from the structure, so much so that it was almost impossible to see the facade, even at that close distance. Once or twice, just as the wind came up off the water, the billowing white cloud of vapor parted momentarily to show charred brick around the front door and what used to be the display window (so much for that wooden sandpiper I was considering buying for my bathroom; he was most blackened ash by now). We spoke to a few of the residents, all of whom expressed their sadness at the loss of a long-time establishment...and their relief that the blaze wasn’t reaching another local favorite, Paul’s Pasta. Everyone seemed to be in shock. It was truly a challenging day for the neighborhood.
When I got back to my car (which was quite a jaunt up the hill) and hopped in, I became aware that the Subaru smelled of smoke. I know that should have been a no-brainer since I had just parked downwind from a fire, but I had secured all the windows despite the wonderfully balmy temperatures. Maybe the odor had wafted in through the ventilation system, I thought. Or up through the bottom of the car. No, it wasn’t because smoke had somehow sneaked into my automobile; it was because Kate and I reeked of smoke from standing near the storefront. Duh!
Now you may think that at that moment my thoughts would have turned to laundry methods by which I could remove the odor from my jacket and my car upholstery. Nope. My thought at that moment was how does my friend Janet, who is married to a firefighter (and whose husband’s firehouse actually responded to the Tackle Shop emergency), keep this smell out of her house? I have never heard her mention the challenge of keeping the smell of smoke out of her home. I wondered, too, if her husband has a permanent smoky smell. Landscapers have permanently dirty fingernails. Painters have paint splatters on their hands. Submariners often carry a hint of amine on their clothes from the air purifiers on the boat. Do firefighters smell smoky?
Just an unusual thought on an unusual day for my community.
For photos of the fire, visit the photo gallery at The Day. Click on "News events from around the region" and then look for “Fire at Ken’s Tackle Shop in Groton City.” For an article about the fire, click here.
Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.