A Business Burns Down and Incivility Erupts
Very early this morning, the Carmel Fire Department (CFD) was called to a local Dunkin’ Donuts restaurant because the employees smelled smoke. The CFD investigated, including getting on the roof of the building, loosening air handlers, and inspecting the building, but did not find anything. There was apparently no thermal signature that suggested a fire. According to at least one report, the CFD instructed the employees to shut down the store’s HVAC system and to call a mechanic in the morning to do a more thorough equipment check. Two hours later, the CFD was called again, this time because the building was now in flames. The blaze grew to a three-alarm fire for which firefighters from Noblesville and Indianapolis were called to assist. Eventually, at least two businesses (the Dunkin’ Donuts and neighboring Grape Inspirations Winery) were completely destroyed. The extent of damage to other businesses in the strip mall (including a Donatos Pizza, a small family-owned hot dog shop, a sushi restaurant, and a small market) is not yet known.
Obviously, the investigation done by the CFD following the first call is worth examining. Was that investigation sufficient? Did the employees follow the recommendations of the CFD? These and other questions will be asked as the investigation of the cause of the fire gets underway.
What I want to focus on is the reaction of Hoosiers to the story. OK, we can expect a joke or two about police officers and doughnuts. Ha ha. But after more than than one or two jokes, the punch line gets old. Before diving into the reactions that prompted this post, I thought it worth remembering that real people — maybe they’re my neighbors, maybe yours — have been affected by this fire:
Ron Shoff, owner of Grape Inspirations, said the business was his life.
"It's our life savings, and seven years of hard work trying to build it into a viable business," Shoff said. "Even though it's insured, it's all gone."
But here’s how some other Hoosiers have reacted [typos in original]:
- Carmel is burning while the Mayor tunes his horn in the Paladium.*
- [I]t's in the mayor's best interest for the strip mall to burn so they can require it to be rebuilt in the new carmel image... it was an old strip mall that didn't quite conform to carmel's pretentious standards.
- Who gives a crap about Dunkin' Donuts or Donato's. They are chains and will rebuild just fine. I just hope Zacky's is ok. The family that owns that place is so friendly and the hot dogs are great.
- Been to Grape Inspirations one time... fake would be a good description of the place and the staff.
- fake is a good description of Carmel and the people, so it sounds like this place fit in quite well. Of course, anything to do with booze will make money in Carmel. Did you know the 21st Amendment store at 156th and Meridian is the top-selling 21st Amendment IN THE STATE? Drive by there any Friday afternoon and see all the Hamilton County housewives stepping out of their Escalades to load up on a gallon or two of Momma's Little Helper ... Not to mention the fact the store is positioned between two of the largest Catholic churches in the state! 21st Amendment probably thinks they're printing money these days!
- REALITY - the people who take the tests for police and firemen out of highschool are usually kids who can't get into college. No too smart. See indy police and carmel fire.
- And we see our first case of an inside job. Carmel City Planners hated that strip mall. Arson is my first guess.
- Nero fiddled while Rome burned and Mayor Braindead blew Feinsteins horn while Carmel burned.*
- What do ROBERT BLAKE, OJ and CARMEL have in common? You can get away with anything anywhere. Carmel HS a joke. Those kids should be in jail. Laz makes it out like his kid is ahero. The Mayor is dumb. Too many roundabouts. And the Paladium is a waste. Fire Dept. cant tell if there is a fire. What's wrong with THAT picture. No fields or facilities for kids. Getting fatter each day but at least they can all hear Glen Campbell while sitting on their fat butts.**
- I think it's all part of Carmel's big plan to rid themselves of any building that is more than 10 years old so they can spend a crapload of money building a big, fancy, ugly structure to replace it, and turn the area into some sort of campy sounding "district".
Note that all but the final comment were to the article “Fire spreads from Carmel Dunkin’ Donuts” on the website of The Indianapolis Star; the final comment was posted to the article “Fire Tears Through Carmel Shopping Center” on the website of WRTV (Channel 6). And all of those comments were posted before 1:00pm today. And note that several comments were blocked by site moderators.
Just for the record, here are the responses that I posted to three of the more obnoxious comments on the website of The Indianapolis Star. After the first few comments, I wrote this [typos in original; the Star’s commenting feature doesn’t provide spellchecking]:
How many oxes can some people gore with this one story? Let's see: We can bash the Carmel Fire Department because they weren't able to find anything during the first call (ignoring that their was apparently no smoke smell when the FD arrived and that the FD told the employees to shut down the environemntal system). We can bash police in general on basis of the stereotype of the police officer who enjoys doughnuts. We can bash Mayor Brainard for the Palladium and his enthusiasm last night and we can bash Mayor Brainard again for his efforts to modern urban living in downtown Carmel. And we can bash chain restaurants. Did I miss anyone?
It really sickens me that so many in our community would rather point fingers and make snide comments rather than offer sympathy for those affected by the fire. Unfortunately, the comments to this story are merely symptomatic of the problems facing our society.
Then, after I read the comment suggesting that the fire was “an inside job”, I wrote:
Let me be sure that I understand: You are accusing the City of Carmel of committing an arson because they didn't like the strip center. That is one heck of an allegation. Do you have proof or are you just making stuff up as a way of expressing your dislike for Carmel or its planners.
Perhaps you're unaware, but in civil society, we generally don't make unfounded accusations, especially of crimes.
Finally, in response to the comment equating Carmel to Robert Blake and OJ:
Why the animosity toward Carmel and what does that animosty have to do with a fire at a commercial establishment? Why, precisely is Carmel High School a joke? Is it because it provides an excellent educational experience to students? By the "kids" I presume you mean the basketball players. I agree that it sounds like what they did was wrong, but isn't that for prosecutors, judges, and juries to decide, rather than you? Mayor Brainard is "dumb". Very impressive analysis of his capabilities and qualifications. And just what is it that he's done that leads to your pronouncement? Too many roundabouts? Have you checked out the decrease in accidents and the severity of accidents as a result of the roundabouts? Have you checked out the increase in fuel efficiency? Plus, it appears that Carmel residents like the roundabouts. The Palladium is a waste. You are obviously entitled to your opinion. Apparently, many in Carmel would disagree with you and, after all, it is their money, not yours. No fields or facilities for kids? Apparently, you are unfamiliar with all of the parks throughout Carmel or of the Dad's Club and other facilities. I'd say that Carmel's kids have enormous opportunities. It sounds like you are simply misinformed or envious.
But the question that remains, at least to me, is what has gone so wrong in our society to the point that people want to take time out of their day — Veterans Day, no less — not to offer their sympathies, but to attack, belittle, and tear down? I understand that some people dislike Carmel, either because they’re envious (and won’t admit it) or maybe because Carmel’s sports teams have beaten their teams. But the degree of animosity is sometimes stunning.
Whether we like each other or not, whether we agree with each other or not, we all still live together in what is supposed to be a civil society. However, if those bonds of civility don’t even extend to commenting on a fire, then what hope do we really have that we can maintain civility and avoid the pitfalls that the further erosion of civility will eventually lead to?
When we read comments like these, we need to say “NO!”. When we hear people speak like this, we need to say “NO!”. For if we don’t take it upon ourselves to try to maintain civility in our society, who will? And if we lose civility? There be dragons…
For those not from the Indianapolis area:
*The evening before the fire, Carmel’s Mayor, James Brainard helped to inaugurate the Palladium, Carmel’s new world class concert hall. The show began with the Mayor briefly playing the French horn that he played in high school before turning the stage over to Michael Feinstein, the artistic director for the performing arts center.
**Earlier this year, four members of the Carmel High School basketball team were arrested and charged with various crimes (originally including aggravated sexual assault) stemming from a hazing incident against another player. The resulting investigation (by the Hamilton County prosecutor) and trial process has been the subject of a lot of attention and scorn in the Indianapolis metropolitan community.