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Many left wondering how a city recovers

How does a city recover?
When something such as the death of two firefighters wakes us from our complacency and makes us appreciate the public servants we take for granted, we do the obvious.
The obvious, but necessary.
We lower our flags to half-staff.
American flags in Salisbury flew low Saturday in tribute to Victor Isler and Justin Monroe, the men lost in Friday’s fire at Salisbury Millwork.
Flags at restaurants. Those giant flags at car dealerships. The flag at the post office. The flags in front of fire stations, of course.
The flag flying on the island at City Park Lake seemed especially beautiful.
But I also was touched that Granite Quarry and Spencer, nearby neighbors to Salisbury, flew their flags at half-staff, too.
A kind, beautiful gesture.
How does a city recover?
With flowers. People brought them to the Firemen’s Memorial at the edge of Chestnut Hill Cemetery.
They placed them at the entrance to Salisbury Millwork.
They brought them to the Central Fire Station on East Innes Street.
A table at the fire station held vase after vase of flowers sent in remembrance of Isler and Monroe and in sympathy for the Salisbury Fire Department.
The cards said stuff such as “To Our Brave Firemen and Their Families” and “You Are in Our Prayers.”
The messages and gifts ó food, gift baskets, flower crosses ó came from people just showing up at the station, businesses and people who have heard of Salisbury’s tragedy on television or the Internet.
One card and its accompanying flowers, I noticed, came from someone in Greece.
“Everybody has rallied to help us,” Fire Department Spokesperson Chris Kepley said. “There’s no way we could repay them.”
How does a city recover?
Ben Martin heard it in a train whistle Friday afternoon.
During the height of the fire, a hose had to be stretched across the tracks toward a hydrant on South Main Street. It meant blocking northbound and southbound trains for several hours.
When the trains finally started running again, Martin noticed that the engineer of the second southbound train going past the fire scene moved his cars slowly.
Instead of the long, customary blast of his whistle at each crossing, this engineer kept sounding two short blasts all the way from Klumac Road to Jake Alexander Boulevard.
Martin likes to think it was a tribute to the two fallen firefighters.
How does a city recover?
An anonymous donation to the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation has provided the city with red ribbons for people to wear in remembrance of Isler and Monroe.
Dan Peters, a chaplain for the Salisbury Fire Department, said Saturday people should tie them to their car antennas or rear-view mirrors. He also suggested pinning the ribbons to clothing.
You can pick one up at the fire station at 515 E. Innes St. or at participating local businesses, which will be listed on the City’s Web site (www.salisburync.gov) early this week.
How does a city recover?
Someone placed a homemade sign outside the East Innes Street fire station.
The cardboard looked like it belonged to a box of meat and, indeed, there was a still legible stamp that said “Keep Frozen.”
The text also seemed a bit telegraphic. It said “Pray/2 Firemen/Dead/ 1 Hospital/ God Cares.”
A pair of roses topped off the sign. Two once again.
How does a city recover?
Lewis Mowery, 38, watched his job go up in smoke Friday.
It comes at a bad time. His fifth child is due two months from now, and he was his family’s sole supporter.
Except for a brief time when he worked for Freightliner, Mowery had been at Salisbury Millwork since 1987.
He visited the fire site again Saturday, as if he had to make sure it was still true. This place where he had invested much of his adult life was gone.
“It’s going to be tough for a little while,” Mowery said.
How does a city recover?
Rick Fesperman retired a couple of years ago from the Salisbury Fire Department, but the loss of Isler and Monroe hurt him deeply.
He showed up at the East Innes Street station Saturday to show his support.
“That’s the way the brotherhood is,” he said. “The unique thing about the fire service is that during any crisis, we pull together. Right now we need each other’s support more than anything.
“You can retire from the job, but you don’t retire from the family.”
How does a city recover?
The police and fire department vehicles escorting the bodies of Isler and Monroe from Salisbury to Charlotte for autopsies stopped for a minute or so in front of the East Innes Street station.
Firefighters from all over the region stood in lines on both sides of the street and put their hands over their hearts.
My wife was in a car that stopped to observe the tribute. She put her hand over her heart, too.
How does a city recover?
One flag.
One flower.
One prayer.
One whistle.
One ribbon.
One sign.
One visit.
One brother.
One heart.
At a time.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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