No, this fire did not start in the tire factory. But allowing a tire factory to operate in a heavily populated area is a stupid idea. Especially since that factory has already burned once before. Unfortunately, it appears that this fire will finish that factory off. But that is not the end of it.
My wife came home from work and was pointing at what I thought was a random spot in the sky. All she kept saying was "Fire." I went out and saw the smoke. I had seen this smoke before. Thick, black, heavy smoke that smelled like burning tires. It started in the paper mill, from what people are saying, and now it is wiping out a big chunk of my hometown.
We are not Amherst, or Orchard Park, or Williamsville. We are Lockport. We are the butt of all of Western New York's jokes. Whenever we get a shooting in our little city, the other cities that also get shootings on a regular basis point and laugh. When there is a meth lab found in Lockport, the other cities that are regularly finding and battling meth labs have the audacity to point at us and think that we are somehow more infested than they are.
We are Lockport. We are families. We are a community. Our residents don't have the resources to cope with losing everything in a fire. But yet there will be several families in our city who will lose what little they have.
I am from Lockport. I live in Lockport. I saw the flames first-hand and choked back tears. Those were people from my hometown risking their lives to stop the hometown from burning to the ground. Those were people from my hometown having to flee their homes with the understanding that their homes may not be there when this is over. I am ashamed to say that I don't have the room to take in my fellow Lockportians, and I don't have the means to help with donations. I just don't. I am from Lockport; I live day to day like the rest of us.
I watched the smoke rise to the sky and felt so damn helpless. There is nothing I can do. My physical limitations prevent me from being able to do anything that could be considered helpful. I don't have any skills I can offer that would be of use in this situation. I cannot open my home up to anyone because we simply do not have the room. There is nothing I can do. I want to do something, but I cannot. So I watch the flames rise above the trees and the smoke bellow out towards the Niagara County Golf Course.
We are in trouble. We need help. It is good to see that the same places that laugh at us when we have petty problems are coming to help us now. It is honestly heart-warming to see other communities answer the call when Lockport is in trouble.
But I cannot do anything to help my own hometown.
I am powerless. I am without any skills that would be relevant in this situation, and (like most people in this city) I am without the resources to do anything that would help out the people who are suffering.
So I watch my city burn, and I feel my heart melt at the same time. I want to help those people. If there is going to be a legitimate GoFundMe or some kind of fundraiser for those people, I want to contribute. I want to do what I can to help.
Now think about everything I just said about me, and realize that every single person in Lockport now feels exactly the same way. That is what it means to be from Lockport. That is what it means to be part of a community.
All we can do is hope that the firefighters have what they need to do their jobs. I have no idea what this will look like in the morning, but I know that it will still be Lockport...and I know that Lockport will pick itself up and move forward. We always have, and we always will.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at email@example.com.