One way of gauging the quality of a community is in how it responds to a crisis, particularly when the crisis involves a relatively small number of people.
By that measure Meriden is scoring high in its response to a recent early morning fire that displaced three families, including eight children. The fire caused heavy damage at a multifamily house at 144 Miller St.
It’s worth pausing for a moment to observe how scary this must have been, and note as well the importance of smoke detectors. Those inside the building recalled waking to the sight of the colors orange and red, followed by the recognition that the house was on fire. “I guess I was in shock,” said one resident. Five children in one family ranged in age from six months to 14 years old.
The families waited outside, watching firefighters fight the blaze, wondering when and whether they’d be able to go back inside to collect any surviving belongings. While they waited, neighbors came to help, as did employees of the library nearby and members of the Meriden Health Department.
Not too long afterward, the Council of Neighborhoods began collecting donations for the three families. A drive was held at the Pratt Street firehouse, in conjunction with the police and fire departments, and Hunter’s Ambulance. The collection included gift cards, food, clothing and money.
Holly Wills, Council of Neighborhoods president, observed: “The generosity of the Meriden community is always inspiring when people come together when these emergencies happen.”
Meriden residents can take pride in this type of response. And while it’s not possible to make up for the loss suffered by the families involved, the outpouring of support must certainly offer some solace. That’s part of what it means to belong to a community, and in this instance Meriden has shown its strength.