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They Lose Community

Story ID:7790
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Caldwell ID USA
Year:2012
Person:People
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Mum and I stood on our front steps and listened to a siren approaching from miles
away. “I think it’s a fire truck.” Mum said as she stared across the harbor at the road that wound
through our small fishing village.

“Maybe it’s an amblance, Mum.”

“Ambulance, you mean.”

“That’s what I said.”

Flashing lights appeared on the road across the harbor. As Mum suspected, it was a
fire truck. Its siren wailed. The flashing light turned houses momentarily red as it sped by. It
disappeared from view as it approached the crossroad. We watched and waited to see if it
came our way or continued west to the villages a few miles away.

The big red truck came up our road and headed for the houses on Bull Point road. Mum
and I circled the house to watch in that direction. Which road would it go at the split in the
dirt road at the center of the point?

The fire truck took the road to the right, where we couldn’t see which house it went to.
We just watched the red beam of light reflect from houses and listened to the receding siren.

“I hear another siren, Mum.”

“I hear it too.”

We watched another emergency vehicle come into view on the road across the harbor.
“Look, Mum! It’s an amblance.”

“You mean Ambulance, Michael.”

“That’s what I said.”

Mum frowned with concern. “Someone must be sick or hurt?”

“Who, Mum? Who’s hurt or sick?”

“I don’t know.” she said as she stared in the direction where the red lights could still be
seen. We had family in that direction. “Let’s go in the house.”

We didn’t have a phone. We’d have to wait until the next day to learn that a senior
member of the community had passed away.

In the tightly knit community, everyone knew everyone else. Every emergency vehicle
caused concern. Someone we knew was in trouble and needed help. People looked out for each
other. It’s our way of life.

People in the cities make fun of the people who watch the flashing red lights as they
wonder who was in trouble. Sirens are an everyday occurrence for them.

A few days ago, I noticed a flurry of activity from my Facebook friends thousands of
miles away in Nova Scotia. One post asked, “What’s going on? Several police cars passed
my house headed west.”

Another posted, “I don’t know, but they passed our house and headed toward Pennant.”

The posts continued. I read each one, wondering if someone I might remember from
years long gone was in trouble.

I live in an urban area now. I’ve also lived near New York and worked in Manhattan,
where sirens are always blaring. I learned to ignore them, unless I am driving and need to get
out of their way. I knew few people in New York and few here in Idaho.

Ginny and I do grow concerned if the red lights are flashing on our street. We haven’t
become so callous we don’t care. Our street is the small community we live in. There are few
opportunities to know everyone around us.

People who live in urban areas don’t lose compassion or become uncaring. They lose
community.

Michael T. Smith