Memories of the courthouse fire
We all have memories of when we first heard that the Morgan County Courthouse was burning one year ago today. We remember the visual shock as we first came by the site and how it took a while for the loss to sink in.
Commissioner Brenda Hutchinson shared memories of the morning of the courthouse fire in a recent interview. She said that she'd gotten a phone call from her brother that morning at 5:30 a.m. saying that the courthouse was on fire.
Hutchinson said she didn't really believe it and thought that maybe the fire was minimal until she got to town.
Hutchinson spent every day in the courthouse records room for her job. She said that never in her wildest imagination could she have pictured the devastation at the building that she saw when she drove by.
Flames were still shooting out of the top of the building, said Hutchinson. All she could think of was did anyone get hurt and did the records survive. She thought that all of us were in shock, that the loss didn't register for a while, like any tragedy that you're personally involved in.
Hutchinson was allowed to leave work later that morning to go help at the fire site. She said it was very emotional for her to walk through the devastation because being in the records room had pretty much been her life. The courthouse fire was very emotional for all of the people that worked there, she said.
Hutchinson said that some days she was in the courthouse records room researching until late in the evening and often spent more time there than at her own home.
"I know it's just a building, but when you spend every day of your life there, it's home," said Hutchinson of the former courthouse.
The county did a wonderful job of getting things up and running after the fire.
"It's amazing what those girls did," she said of county workers.
Hutchinson thought it was a blessing when the courthouse was finally torn down, likening its once standing charred remains to an open wound.
Hutchinson said she wants to get a courthouse back on that corner — "one that we can be proud of."
"This is a tourist town," she said.
"If you don't work there or use it on a regular basis, it's not a concern to the average citizen. But it is the center of our government," said Hutchinson of the courthouse.
Delegate Daryl Cowles also recalled the morning of the courthouse fire in a legislative update. He described the efforts of regional firefighters to contain the flames and limit the damage. County officials and employees and concerned citizens worked to salvage what they could from the building.
The courthouse records vault had saved many rare deeds and papers, some hundreds of years old, said Cowles. He noted that the feeling in the crowd that gathered was that "we lost an old friend."