Our church was the 8th church fire in Texas since the first of the year...only 19 days earlier. I had had many people ask me if I thought it was arson. I really searched my gut to see what I felt. I wanted to feel one way or the other. I said I really felt like it was an accident. I really did not believe that someone had intentionally set fire to our church.
The fire started on Tuesday, January 19th and by Thursday the national ATF (Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) had arrived to begin investigating the fire. James was told that because of the magnitude and size of the fire it is standard procedure that they come in and investigate. On Friday morning everyone that had keys we asked to be there to be interviewed by ATF.
We were told that ATF were planning to be gone by Sunday evening and that the ministers could hopefully go in early week 2. Monday morning, however, ATF was still there. I thought briefly that maybe they had found something and were having to investigate more thoroughly. But then I still didn't have the gut feeling. They finished their investigation on Wednesday and briefed insurance Thursday morning on their findings and then were gone.
The day James had waited for had finally come. He was able to go into the education building (building B) and video the damage for the staff's knowledge and what it looks like before the renovations began. James was giddy! There was a lot of water damage and black smoke lines going up the walls. The floors were trashed...and NO fire came into that building. He did see into his office through a window. There was debris everywhere but it looked somewhat like he could find some things in it. When James called after he went in, I was expecting to hear what it was like but he had something else to tell me.
He told me that what he was going to tell me had to be kept a secret because there would be a press conference the next morning announcing that the church fire was arson. Arson. Arson? Really? I felt like I had been sucker punched in the stomach. And I couldn't say a word. My chest hurt because I really didn't believe that it was intentionally set. I was devastated. The rest of the day was numb. My kids could have colored all over the walls and eaten every piece of candy we had for dinner and I probably wouldn't have noticed. Thank goodness it was Emme's (the little girl I keep) brother's birthday and the girls spent the evening with them.
Everything after that point moved in slow motion. All that peace I had felt seemed to slowly disappear...not that I didn't feel that God was in control because I totally did...but now this fire became personal. There was not an electrical spark in an OLD building with OLD wiring and it just went up in flames. No, someone got into our church and intentionally set a blaze to ruin all that we had. Although I know the Church is not a building, it still had so many memories and things that are reminders of different points along everyone's journeys in life. It was all gone. Even today, I don't understand!