A reporter on the scene, August 8, 2006
I was five months pregnant when the Morgan County Courthouse burned. I will tell my son the story of that morning when he is older, when the only county courthouse he knows is the one we'll call "the new courthouse."
August 8 seemed like two different days.
I got the call to go downtown shortly after 5 a.m. In the dark, we watched the courthouse burn, focused on the orange flames and pale smoke rolling out of the clock tower.
People stood around in clusters, arms folded across their chests, all watching the building. Elected officials, county workers, neighbors, town officials, police officers all staring at the same familiar building.
Firefighters keep emptying great arcs of water onto the roof. The spray had a sizzling sound. Squadrons of firefighters pulled hoses, operated pumpers, talked into radios, positioned ladders.
Fire trucks were everywhere — filed down Fairfax Street, in the center of U. S. 522. Their flashing bars lit up the night, made it official that we were all standing in the middle of a fire scene.
No one talked much then, in the dark. We just looked at the smoldering courthouse, trying to come up with something to say besides, What happened?
When the sun came up, things looked different. Flames were still flaring out of the clock tower. Morning traffic had started and was being routed off 522 onto Green Street. Semi trucks and a flow of cars had to inch their way along the new route while the daylight made it clear that 522 wouldn't handle traffic for some time.
Small chunks of debris were spread across the sidewalks and the road, mixed with hundreds of gallons of water.
In the daylight, we could see what darkness had spared us. The courthouse roof completely fallen in, hinged down into the courtroom and offices. Windows had broken out and blackened around the edges.
At first glance, the sturdy brick fa