COVINGTON, Ky. - "Just craziness," is how Maurice Brown described the apparent arson of the Sixth District Elementary School playground. "I just couldn't believe it. I was more hurt than anything."
Brown is the lead custodian of the school.
He has worked there at the corner of 18th Street and Maryland Avenue since before the playground existed.
Sunday's early morning fire struck deep into the heart of the community that surrounds the century old school.
"For this to happen is a tragedy," Brown said, "for all of us."
Fire investigators said today the cause of the fire is undetermined, due to the extreme damage the flames did to the structure.
Covington Battalion Chief Seth Posten acknowledged under the circumstances it is safe to say the cause is "suspicious."
While fire destroyed a section of the wooden playground, in a way it was also responsible for its existence.
Not the fire that burns, but the flaming spirit of a caring community.
"We had over 800 volunteers build it in five days," said Rachel Hastings, Director for Neighborhood and Housing Initiatives for the Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington.
She was instrumental in organizing an army of Covington volunteers in 2001 to make a safe place for children to play.
"(Sixth District Elementary) school is a little over 100 years old," Hastings said. "It never had a green space or playground. And so the kids would play literally on the blacktop."
With several grants, donations and elbow grease, the people of Covington designed and built a playground that became a gathering place for kids from all over town, including Maurice Brown's 4-year-old daughter.
"I brought her here yesterday," said Brown, "and she was hurtin' when she saw this."
CGNC planned to add a new swing set and a Learning Garden July 22. Now, their agenda has changed.
"(We need to) figure out, what can we do?" said Dan Petronio, Associate Director of CGNC, "and how can we re-harness community energy to deal with this tragedy."
That may not be too difficult.
The flames of community resilience have already started to grow.
"Believe you me," said Brown. "They're going to get together as a family again, and we're going to take care of this. We're going to clean this up, have it looking just as good as new again."
Sort of like fighting fire with fire.
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