Context is everything. At face value, the fire and sprinkler safety demonstration held during last week’s Block Party was a dramatic and educational endeavor, and it illustrated the potential dangers of neglecting fire safety.
But only a few feet to the east of the blaze was an even greater lesson lost in our forgetting. The house at 12 East 11th St. was the site of the deadly fire that cost the lives of two Emporia State students last October.
As students and residents celebrated the beginning of the new school year, a scorched and discarded home sat unoccupied and unnoticed. The Emporia Fire Department administered a mock-fire in order to demonstrate the need for sprinkler systems and functional smoke detectors in students’ homes. Students cheered at the blaze and marveled at its ferocity. Then they went back to dancing.
It was not callousness or malice that chose the location of the demonstration. It may have been out of necessity. Perhaps the corner of 11th and Commercial Street was the only viable and safe place to hold such an event. But to those who lost friends, the implication of a fire and a celebration in such close proximity to the tragic reminder conjures with it an inextinguishable sorrow.
We applaud the EFD in their efforts to save countless lives across our city. They provide us with a sense of comfort and security. We only wish that a little discretion had been used in their location scouting. We would never permit a war reenactment in the lawn of a fallen veteran
The implication of their action may be small. No one was physically hurt. Most walked away with a greater understanding of fire safety. But whatever educational value may have been derived from the demonstration was lessened by its social implication, that forgetting is OK. To forget is to let slip from our collective memory Yawei Fan’s and Zheng Lin’s impact on ESU and the world.
How each person deals with tragedy is as nuanced as the experience they possess. For some, a fire safety demonstration near the home of a victim of a house fire is the most poignant way to portray the message of precaution and mindfulness.
But we cannot forget the living victims who must have imagined, again, their friends’ suffering as the domesticated flames flickered during our time of celebration.
Remember where you are, students. What we say and do matters. It is through our compassionate consideration for those around us that we proactively protect one another. The intentions of the EFD were noble and commendable and no one should think otherwise.
Sometimes, though, it’s the small forgotten fragments of our social web that speak louder than any inferno.