Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ok Lockport . . . what did we learn?

As a city and a town, we have had plenty of chances to learn about ourselves over the past week. We had the spotlight on us, once again for the wrong reasons, and we got to see how each segment of our society responds to that kind of pressure. Certain elements of our little part of the world responded with world class precision to the events that took place. Other aspects of our world were embarrassing, plain and simple. Can we do better? Of course we can. The real question is whether or not we want to do better.

We found out that our fire department, and the fire departments in the surrounding area, are some of the best there is. I honestly feel safer now knowing that men and women that dedicated to protecting our community are willing to put their lives on the line simply because it is their jobs. Did you know there was a major structure fire around the same time they were trying to finish off the tire fire? Our fire department is amazing, and the way it gets treated by the Municipal Building is disgusting.

We learned that some people in our community love the social media spotlight by being the first to report "breaking news." Yes, our police were a little tight-lipped about information regarding how the fire started and if anyone was caught inside or not. But there was probably a really good reason for that. But the lack of official confirmation did not stop the social media butterflies from speculating and acting like the "thing they heard from their friend who said he was there" was absolute fact.

Speculation on the Internet can be an extremely dangerous thing. That is why the police do not speculate. If you "heard something from a guy you know who said he was there," then keep it to yourself until the officials have spoken. To this point, no one in an official capacity has said anything about the identity of the body found in the fire. It could be who people are speculating it is, or it could be someone completely different. Out of respect for the family, people should stop pronouncing a child dead on social media before there is any proof of it.

And what about blame? We have learned that, in our little part of the world, the blame game is very black and white. One part of our population feels that if these boys did start this fire and one of them perished, then he "got what he deserved." Others are asking people to be respectful of the family and to stop pointing the finger of blame at anyone until more facts are released.

Did these boys go into the facility with the intent of burning it down? Perhaps the police know the answer, but they have not said anything officially yet. Do you know why? Because the police understand the importance of getting the facts straight before they say anything to anyone. That is a lesson a lot of people in Lockport can learn, especially when it comes to social media.

This was one of the worst fires this city has ever seen. When a small town like ours goes through something like this, everyone wants to have the scoop as far as inside information goes. On a scale of one to 10, I would say our sense of social media responsibility was at about a three for this event. I know people will never wait for official word on anything and that rumors rule a small town, but our response on social media bordered on embarrassing.

But let's get past the ugly underside of our city and focus on the good things that happened. Our support for our firefighters made regional news and the heart of Lockport was on display. As late as yesterday, I was seeing posts on social media of people taking cupcakes and cookies to our firefighters. Signs thanking the firefighters for their work (good job Palace!) were seen all over town. We came together and, aside from a few bad apples, we united behind our firefighters.

We have seen the best of Lockport over the last few days, and we have seen the worst of Lockport as well. We came together as a community when it mattered, and we tore each other apart over petty issues. All in all, I would say that we did about as well as we could given the circumstances. 

Thank you firefighters. Thank you police officers. Thank you everyone who was put in the public spotlight, and performed like professionals. At least we know that the residents will never take our fire department or our police department for granted.

George N Root III is a Lockport resident who could see the fire from his front porch. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at