Humbled by history

As the 70th anniversary of the Great Fire of 1947 approaches, Mount Desert Island residents are making good use of the opportunity to reflect on that monstrous event, the impacts of which are still felt.

Islanders are storytellers, and the stories of the fire are as instructive as they are inspiring.

At an upcoming anniversary event, the island’s fire departments will discuss some of the lessons the fire services have learned from the past. In fact, every fire they fight becomes a case study as they seek to learn and improve through their ongoing training.

More than 700 people, the equivalent of more than one in 10 Bar Harbor residents, packed into the Criterion on Sunday to watch Peter Logue’s new documentary about the fire. Many more will watch the film, attend lectures and discussions about the fire, and reach into the past in other ways in the coming weeks.

The desire to connect with the history of this special place, as demonstrated by the crowd at the film premiere, goes hand in hand with the desire to connect with, and care for, one another.

One of the audience members congratulated Logue on the film this way:

“Combined with the resilience of those ‘kids’ you interviewed (albeit senior citizens when they spoke with you), the willingness of other towns to help, and the never-say-die community spirit of MDI, the film really solidified the message that we are all in this together.”

That resonance is particularly important at a time when condescension and division so often seem to be the order of the day. There’s no shortage of things to fight about.

But when a lobsterman’s boat is going down, or an older couple makes a wrong turn and drives into the water, or a family needs help rebuilding their lives after a fire, this community shows its colors.

“Islanders come together,” one of the survivors of the fire says in the film, “always.”


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