OUR VIEW: United Garrettsville rallies for recovery

Fire devastated downtown, but didn't crush spirit of community

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The fire that ravaged Garrettsville's business district Saturday took a horrible toll -- a major part of the downtown area reduced to rubble, 13 businesses displaced, damages estimated at $5 million -- but it is obvious that it didn't crush the spirit of the northern Portage County community.

"Garrettsville Strong" will come back. The rubble that litters Main Street, as disheartening as it looks now, will be cleared away, so that rebuilding can eventually begin as it must.

As Garrettsville regroups and rallies for recovery, it is strengthened by the knowledge that it is not alone. So many other neighboring communities are pulling for it. So many have become honorary G-Men.

The sense of unity evident now will be important in the days, months and years ahead. The focus must be on the future. Stephanie Dietelbach, owner of One Real Peach, who lost her entire business Saturday, may have put it best when she remarked, "We all have no option but to move forward."

There are many signs that is exactly what is happening. A community meeting Monday saw the James A. Garfield High School gymnasium filled with people wanting to help. The Garfield Schools have pledged to make space available for businesses affected by the fire. At least 16 food drives have been organized to resupply the Nelson-Garrettsville Cupboard, another victim of the blaze. Village government, led by Mayor Rick Patrick, has demonstrated progressive leadership in its response to the fire, which is a major plus.

It is gratifying to see Portage County, state and federal agencies offering their assistance to the village. Securing resources that can be used to rebuild the downtown area will be vital for Garrettsville's recovery.

Those most immediately affected by the blaze include the five property owners whose holdings were destroyed Saturday. We hope that they are able to work together in a spirit of shared purpose to focus on rebuilding. That could be one of the most important factors in Garrettsville's recovery.

Garrettsville, in the words of property owner Mike Maschek, owner of the historic Buckeye Block, is, indeed, like a great boxer, "willing to take a punch and come back."

Strengthened by adversity and united in the face of the greatest challenge in its 150-year history, Garrettsville will survive and it will thrive. Count on it.

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