One of the most frightening words you can hear in Provincetown echoed around the town last night. Diners at The Lobster Pot were interrupted by the cry of “fire,” then hastily evacuated. Next door, an iconic string of P’town restaurants, The Red Shack, The Coffee Pot, and the Surf Club were ablaze and at risk of burning to the ground. A fire in a ventilator quickly spread flames to the roof of these conjoined structures.
Provincetown, with all its funky, wooden buildings, including my home, built in 1881, is incredibly vulnerable to fire. Fortunately, we have an amazing, volunteer fire department. These heroes protect us and routinely risk their lives to do so. In short order, they were joined by fire departments from up Cape. Smoke billowed high into the sky, but in time diminished. There was a night-long vigil to ensure there was not a flare up.
My hometown is never better than when faced with adversity. Local businesses set up tables offering food or stayed open until the wee hours of the morning. A sense of neighborliness (the hallmark of our isolation in the early years of the last century) still exists in this tiny spot at the tip of the Cape. I am extraordinarily proud of who we are. This town, so readily labeled as “eccentric” sustains the true values of America. Let’s hope that this moment, as well as the care and concern of the days and weeks to follow, will remind people of our shared humanity.
The impact of such a tragedy goes beyond the loss of revenue and the need to rebuild. Scores of international workers came here specifically to work at these businesses. Their futures, as one can imagine, are uncertain in these intemperate times. Somehow, though overcome with a mixture of pride and sadness, I am confident my town will look out for them, restore itself, and continue. We always do.
I sit at my desk in the “writing shed” and look up at this morning’s blue sky with profound gratitude. I hear the usual Sunday morning sounds: neighbors chatting in the lane, a barking dog, Dori’s occasional growl when that pesky chipmunk is just a bit too insolent. Today, my morning is blessed in its routine.
My sincerest appreciation to those who, once again, protected us and our way of life.
For an aerial view of the damage by master videographer, David Cox, click here for his Facebook video.