"The wharf's on fire".
That's the only text I've ever received that's made my heart stop.
My baby sis texted me late one night last week to tell me the wharf in my hometown of Walton was completely ablaze.
I was immediately filled with sadness -- and anger.
The wharf in Walton hasn't been used as it was intended in many years, not since the barite mine in Walton/Pembroke flooded in the late 70's. And, it had fallen into disrepair over the years. But, to have it destroyed by fire hurts. Even more so, because the police suspect arson.
The wharf is one of a few pieces of infrastructure my hometown has left to represent what once was. Walton used to be a bustling community; once the fourth busiest port in the province, as ships from all over the globe would come into our small harbour to load up with lumber, gypsum, and the granddaddy export of them all -- barite. Walton was actually the largest barite exporter in Canada, with, what once was considered, the single largest deposit of the mineral in the entire world (FYI: barite is a dense, chalky rock material, that's used primarily in drillers' mud for oil rigs). Just about everybody along the 215 in Hants County has a connection to Walton's mining history.
Walton had slowed down considerably by the time I came along. I never got to the see the ships come in. Or witness the shock of German sailors who didn't know what to think when they woke up to find their ship sitting on the muddy bottom of the river, because they weren't used to the dramatic difference between our high and low tides.
But, it's still my history. The wharf was also one of the spots my teenaged self used to sit and dream; it was a place I used to hang out with my friends; it protected us from the wind when we had bonfires on the neighbouring piece of beach; it was the best seat for brilliant sunsets; it was a good fishing spot; it was where I visited everytime I hadn't been home in awhile; it was the first place Brett and I had official wedding pics taken.
Now, it's a charred shell.
I'll admit it -- I cried when I first saw the wharf, the morning after the fire. And, I know I'm not the only one. A lot of people down home are very sad, angry, disappointed. But, some are already talking about seeing what can be done to repair it, restore it to what it was, so it can continue to represent Walton's past (plus help prevent shoreline erosion), but, it's more likely it'll be torn down.
I guess I'm going to have to try my best to remember it as it was: