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Piece of Mind: Does our reserve speak volumes?

March 07, 2013|By Carol Cormaci

Whether we're moving from the grocery store to the dry cleaners, or walking our dogs, or taking turns at the gas pumps, the demeanor of La Cañadans going about routine chores this week mirrors that of students on the high school campus: We are subdued. We speak in voices far softer than usual. We're not smiling as easily as we did a week ago. We lower our eyes to the ground as though we'll find answers for our heartache carved in some sort of code in the asphalt.

Friday morning seemed full of promise. The weather was so balmy that any of us could have been forgiven for contemplating playing hooky. Instead, industrious sorts that we are, we started in on our usual routines. At midmorning a loud explosion rocked the Town Center, shaking the windows of nearby buildings. Within moments, we learned two store employees had been injured when natural gas leaking on the Sport Chalet property was accidentally ignited. Television vans and helicopters arrived; this was a news event. It became more intense as the day wore on and we heard through the grapevine the victims had suffered serious burns.

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We can do without big news up here in the foothills. We are, by and large, a quiet populace. Privacy and a sense of security and self-control are highly prized here. We don't want other folks to know about our troubles. We soldier on, putting on as brave a face as we can muster. It's who we are. So when media come a-calling, we have a tendency to opt out of the conversation — unless, that is, we have no doubt whatsoever that we can remain unidentified.

But when bad news reaches our ears, we can be counted on to help out. We'll organize blood donations, deliver food, help children write get-well cards, and give hugs to the victims' worried family members and friends. Many will offer prayers and a shoulder to lean on.

No sooner were community members sorting out how best they might help the burn victims and their loved ones than we were stunned by additional unthinkable news: Just as late afternoon shadows had begun their creep along the ridges of the San Gabriels, a teen jumped to his death from a building on the La Cañada High campus.

We moved together, some mentally, others physically, from one pocket of grief to another. How could this be? Two unrelated tragic events in one day within our relatively compact city limits? Is this not a well-ordered community where life on most days is so uneventful that the kids call our town “The Bubble”?

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