Rockland — it's not just pretty on the outside
In the winter, when the sky is gray day after day and the cold aches in my bones, I ask Christine why we can't move to some tropical island.
Even at those times, I know, we've built our lives in Rockland.
This time of year, watching the fireworks burst into color over Georges Valley High School or gazing at a schooner sailing past the breakwater light, anyone could become infatuated with our little piece of the coast. But the beauty of Rockland is more than skin deep.
About two weeks ago we started writing stories about Noah Keene, a 5-year-old boy whose hand was severed when he was playing with a jump rope in the back seat of his grandmother's pickup truck. He tied one end of the rope to his wrist and threw the other out the window. When another vehicle drove over the rope, the pressure caused the devastating injury.
This is the kind of story that hits everyone, especially parents, like a punch in the gut. When I mentioned it to friends, their mouths dropped open in honest horror.
However, the story that has emerged is a deeply human one, not just another accident in a police report.
From the first few minutes after Noah's injury, this community took action to help. First we had our trained firefighter/paramedics and police to rely on, an example of the services we pay for in Rockland. That's more meaningful than it might sound. We pay good money to have paramedics at the fire station 24/7, and in cases like this, response time matters. Beyond that, it was reported that bystanders helped at the scene.
So what? This is what's expected of any civilized community, right?
Rockland, and people from the surrounding areas, took it a few steps beyond what's expected. Community members and business leaders organized a benefit for Noah and in two weeks' time managed to raise nearly $30,000 to help his family as it faces medical bills from surgeries and therapy.
Last night I attended the rally for Noah at Trackside Station in Rockland. There were hundreds of people, many of them familiar faces, packed into the business and standing in the sunshine outside. They participated in silent and live auctions with more than 200 donated items. They bought raffle tickets.
People were smiling, greeting each other, buying each other drinks, playing music, breaking bread (nachos and potato skins count, right?). What I saw in the faces of my neighbors was joy. They were happiest helping out.
What I saw was a word many stoic New Englanders might get uncomfortable with — love.
Out of horror came community.
This really isn't an isolated event. We see it so often we sometimes don't even appreciate it, the benefit dinners for our sick neighbors, the work of local service organizations, churches, food pantries, missionaries.
At the St. Bernard's soup kitchen, everyone helps out, from the two young tie-wearing Mormon boys, who hoped to win my soul a few weeks back, to the near ancient Roy Peasley playing his guitar to lift spirits.
Not long ago I was at a Rockland Rotary meeting and heard about the work they've been doing, both here and abroad. In our community, those who have been blessed often give.
The other thing illustrated by this accident with Noah was that you don't have to look far for the means to help. The people in this community used the tools at hand.
Kelly Woods, who I worked with for years at the Courier, used her business, Trackside. She, and the other organizers, got word out for the event on Facebook. The driveway for the event was blocked off with barricades provided by the Maine Lobster Festival.
Sometimes in meetings, people argue that we need to preserve the character of this region. Often they are talking about our scenic beauty, our coastline environment and our laid-back Maine lifestyle.
I think Noah has proved the character of this community goes deeper than that.
I feel fortunate to live among neighbors like these.
We at the Courier wish Noah a speedy recovery.
Daniel Dunkle is news editor for Courier Publications. He lives in Rockland with his wife and two children. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter at @DanDunkle.