Want to know why we love this town? Some will figure it’s the perfect climate, the elk calls in the fall, the light glinting off the East Verde River, the monsoon thunderheads towering over the Rim.
Well. That’s part of it. But if you really want to know why this is the best place in the world to live — go back and take a look at last Friday’s paper and the story about an almost tragic house fire.
The redemptive drama unfolded in the middle of the night on a quiet Sunday, when Suanne Clyne looked out her kitchen window and saw flames leaping from the garage of her neighbor’s house three doors down.
Immediately, Suanne, her aunt Andi Shirley and Shirley’s brother-in-law, Kevin Dewitt, ran from the house and rushed to help their neighbor. Meanwhile Shirley’s sister, Margo Clyne, called the fire department.
Andi, Suanne and Kevin sprinted down the street, hollering “fire” to alert the sleeping neighborhood on East McKamey Street.
Warned that people remained inside the house, Kevin and Suanne ran past the fiercely burning garage to a back door and broke out a window. In the front, Andi some how summoned the strength to rip open a security door screen and then applied her shoulder to the front door. She was about ready to go around and break out a window when the homeowner groggily opened the front door — completely unaware of the flames preparing to engulf the house. Andi guided the woman through the house into the back away from the fire.
Meanwhile, Kevin and Suanne entered the house through the back, searching the house for a dog someone told them was inside. Instead, they found an older man inside asleep, who they woke and guided to safety.
By now, police and firefighters had arrived. One firefighter — Jarrett Cline — set to work keeping the fire contained to the garage. He stepped in a hole and twisted his ankle. But he was so intent on fighting the fire he didn’t even notice that he had actually broken the ankle until the next day. See what we mean?
Three ordinary Payson folks without hesitation rushed to save their neighbors in the middle of the night, with no thought of reward or their own safety.
Now, you can likely find people like that in any community. But it seems like we bump into them all the time — including the people we feature almost every issue in our Good Guy segment and the legions of volunteers who rescue strangers in deep canyons pretty much every weekend, not to mention the people who recently donated 50,000 pounds of food and $20,000 to food banks here.
So Andi, Kevin, Margo, Suanne and Jarrett — just wanted to thank you and everyone else for making this the best place in the whole world to live.
School enrollment figures offer a fresh glint of hope
We let out a breath we didn’t realize we had been holding this week when we learned that enrollment in the Payson Unified School District dropped by only 50 students.
But then, we guess the great relief for a decline only half as steep as last year’s just shows you how this recession and cheerless recovery has battered expectations.
Last year, the loss of more than 100 students cost the district $500,000 in state aid — on top of a host of other state cutbacks that forced layoffs and the closure of Frontier Elementary School.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien was cautiously optimistic when he outlined the numbers. Not only has the slide in the enrollment slowed, but projections suggest that state revenues have begun to rise after two years of steep decline. Current projections hint at a wafer-thin state surplus so far this year, compared to deficits in the billions last year. As a result, state support for K-12 education may stabilize this year, instead of undergoing another round of crippling cuts.
All the evidence suggests that the recession and the jobless recovery have hit families with children with special ferocity — especially people in the local construction industry. So we’re happy to clutch at any straws that float by — including the district’s latest enrollment figures.
Let us hope the great labors of the people who have worked to bring into being the Blue Ridge pipeline and a Rim Country college campus in the next few months bear fruit in the form of the jobs we so urgently need.
On that day when the enrollment numbers rise instead of fall, we’ll know that we’ve survived — scarred, perhaps — but proud, too.
And then let us rededicate ourselves to building here the beloved community. And then we can prove the truth of the cliché: That which does not kill you makes you stronger.