It was 6:45 p.m. on Friday night, March 9 and life for all but a few was still normal. Midcoast Maine was settling into another late-winter weekend.

With the touch of the computer “send” button, our community was set back on its heels. Without warning, 56 of our friends and neighbors were out of a job as a local business collapsed under its own weight.

Fifteen minutes later, after VillageSoup employees were notified of their company’s closing, a story posted to VillageSoup’s website, Midcoast’s online connection to one another for a decade, marked the end of an era and we became a community without a locally-generated news source.

When the lights first went out, only a few noticed. I called the managers of The Free Press and left messages. I then went about my normal activities and continued with my schedule for that Friday night, which included watching, with friends, the Harlem Rockets comedy basketball team perform at Oceanside High School in Rockland and then went out for after-game beer and pizza.

There was not a peep at the game and nothing at the tavern afterwards about VillageSoup shutting down. It was eerie.

Then the whirlwind hit. By Saturday morning, March 10, everyone knew the stunning news. With the VillageSoup lights turned out, people spread the word the old-fashioned way, by word-of-mouth, and in the local stores the community gathered and worked each other into a frenzy.

At 10 a.m. that day, when I checked my email, there already were people reaching out to help and I began making calls to the management team at The Free Press. By noon, the meetings had begun with the lending institute that held VillageSoup’s assets and that meeting was followed by a late-afternoon get together with the management team of The Free Press. The mission was clear, as your community newspaper, The Free Press recognized that the commitment had to be made, that they had no choice but to step up and help me begin the process of turning back on the lights.

In several corners of our communities, including Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln counties, mayors gathered, the chambers weighed in and by Monday, March 12, chaos was in high order. Other papers from away were talking about the “opportunity,” committees were forming in each of our Midcoast hubs to start new papers and uncertainty was leading the way. Working all morning and into the afternoon, the lending institute that was now the caretaker of VillageSoup’s assets, and I managed to find a path that made sense and, about 3 p.m. that day, I signed a letter of intent to take over this fine and historic institution, which, at one point, owned several of the state’s legacy newspapers.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, March 12-13, a new management team was formed and on Thursday, March 15, the journey back to today began. Within a week, a building from which to operate was found, more than 30 people were hired, many of whom were former VillageSoup employees, and a new course was set.

The weekly newspapers we present to you today are a mix of old and new. Bringing back The Courier-Gazette in Rockland, Camden Herald in Camden and Republican Journal in Belfast has been met with incredible enthusiasm. Additionally, the communities’ perceived acceptance of helping us create a sustainable paid news model as we bring back VillageSoup online has been encouraging.

Now, the hard work begins and so does the real fun.

The journey to this issue has been fast-paced and the management staff and their crews have stretched the limits to get us April 5 papers. We share this opening day with the Boston Red Sox, but our spring training was short and furious; not quite enough at-bats, but the show must go on.

For me, and for the management team of Courier Publications LLC, the name of the new company, this has been uncharted territory. Do not misunderstand, we all are newspaper people with years of experience. We know how to turn back on the lights and what is needed to get us moving, but Friday night, March 30, I realized the immensity of it all.

At a management summit at a local tavern, over beer, hamburgers and nachos, each of the new management team members echoed similar thoughts: this was the most challenging and important thing they have done.

In fact, my wife, Martha, who was with us at the meeting, remarked on the drive home how interesting it was that, even though the management team averages more than 20-plus years in the newspaper business and this was what we all have been trained to do, they still felt this was an immense undertaking and one of complete immersion.

This is our time. We are up to the challenge and excited to be here.

For me, this has been an odyssey in several ways. On the start of that Monday three weeks ago, I began the day just a regular guy. In 27 years since founding The Free Press, not once had anyone called to ask to interview me for a “news’ story. I have had a nice, quiet career as a publisher and businessman, mostly under the radar, and that suits me. It is about the work and the people; that’s the way it should be.

That Monday there were phone calls and people essentially waiting in line who wanted to talk with me. Channel 6 News, Fox, Maine Public Radio, and many more jammed my phone line and filled my email. There were accolades that were certainly heartfelt and nice, but I didn’t change that Monday. It was the same “me” that watched the Harlem Rockets on Friday and then attended my mum’s 80th birthday party over the weekend.

I suppose this was the “15 minutes of fame” they talk about and I’m glad that has all died down and we are in the process of doing what we do, which is putting out a newspaper.

We are humbled to be here. We appreciate your support. We are 30-plus people who have stepped up to the plate to reestablish traditions that were, for all three reestablished newspapers, started in the 1800s. We present you with the old mastheads with a little touch of “new.”

We hope to report the news, provide you with life’s milestone moments from birth to marriage to death, report on what our governments are up to, the court news, the latest happenings in the arts and entertainment community and to give you complete sports coverage, among other things. These are all things that connect us with each other in small, vibrant communities.

Mostly, we are proud to be a part of your community; a community where our friends, neighbors and families need the connection that a hometown newspaper brings.

We hope we can do you proud.

Reade Brower, a longtime local resident, is owner of The Free Press and Courier Publications LLC.