i am a sentimental person and i can easily attach myself to things and people. i know this.
but i had no idea how much i loved the provo tabernacle until this morning when i saw how much of it isn't there anymore; my heart just broke a little.
my mom called me, completely choked up, at 6:30am to let me know that it had caught fire and was rapidly burning down. i was shocked and didn't really know how to feel. i got online and saw the news stories, such as this one. while i watched the videos, my eyes flooded with unexpected tears.
i had work at 8 am, but as i was driving to work i felt myself impulsively veer the car to turn south instead of heading straight to campus. i didn't stop myself; i had a sneaking suspicion i'd do that when when i'd seen the videos.
i pulled in to a parking slot on center street in time to see the smoke still billowing steadily from the building. i sat there in my car, while fresh tears ran down my face. vaguely aware and slightly peeved that i didn't have my camera, i grabbed my sketchbook and a couple of pens and headed out into the cold.
i know to some, to many-- it was just a building. i know. to others, it was a church-owned building, a historic wonder of utah, a part of our heritage. it was this, indeed...but to me, it was also a place of security, and a place full of memories. i don't remember the last time i felt this way about a "thing" being destroyed since we lost our tree last year. i realize it's because it's not just a "thing"...it's the home of a billion memoirs.
as i watched the firemen work to put out the fire (apparently there are still flames in the back of the building), a lot of things went through my head.
i remembered all those times growing up when we'd go to stake conference there. to me, it was a privilege to sojourn once a year to that building for church. i remembered, during those times, feeling privileged to sit in the balcony, and at some times trying to see that cute boy that i liked or wave to some of my girl friends. i remembered looking around, seeing so many familiar faces and feeling happiness, unity and peace. i remembered standing and singing hymns and feeling the spirit as i sat, listening to the speakers. i remembered drawing the architecture on the program while listening to a choir (i wonder if i still have that...). i remembered the time that i was asked by elder moon, of the quorum of the 70, to recite with another girl, 'the living Christ' to my entire stake from memory. i remembered the hesitant feelings i had that day, and the many small miracles that accompanied to bring me peace and success. that's in fact, one of the first things i think about when i think of the tabernacle.
i also remembered my high school choir performances there, and that beautiful organ. lots of rehearsals. i remembered different feelings -- of excitement, of anticipation and of wonder i felt at the onset of singing -- solely because of the humble grandeur of the place. i remember last year i sang in a byu choir (the first time i'd choir-ed in college) and the sense of familiarity and welcome i felt as i walked in to that rehearsal and following performance. it had just felt...right.
i stood there this morning, in the cold, drawing the building amidst the firefighters and spectators. i met a random byu student around my age and talking with her about it, then an older gentleman who was a photographer who'd shot many an event in the building.
turned out that drawing the place was cathartic for me. it was, in a way, my way of paying tribute to the old friend. as i drew, i said goodbye. my emotions, the hurried pace and honestly the freezing cold made it hard for my hands to not shake so it wasn't a really great drawing, but i didn't really care: what i cared about was that i documented that experience, not so much the actual look, in my own way. and for that i was grateful.
after the girl and man left, i saw two good friends* taking photos. we reminisced for a bit, and it was nice to see familiar faces. after about 45 total minutes of freezing, i left for work.
i know i'm not alone in feeling this way, which is comforting. i like sharing feelings with each other. not just sharing = me telling, but sharing = us feeling mutually. i texted some friends and family about it this morning, and posted a link to the article on facebook. i saw that many other friends had posted similar feelings. it was cool how each expressed the same thing, but in their own way.
"Mourning the loss of the heart of downtown Provo today." -dalene
"I can't believe that we are losing the Provo Tabernacle." -kate
"A little piece of my heart broke when I heard about the Provo Tabernacle fire. :( Praying they can salvage the shell so they can rebuild." -karen
"I'm gonna cry. So many memories in that tabernacle. The best of provo's historic buildings. Ugh....this really sucks!" -sara
"So sad by the loss of the Provo Tabernacle this morning. So many memories I treasure there....choir concerts, stake conference and Christmas festivities. Over 100 years of history lost in a matter of hours." -stephanie
"One of the most historical buildings from my hometown went up in flames this morning." - joe
"Devastated over the loss of the Provo Tabernacle. We used to walk by it daily, and now it's in ruins." -anthony
and, simply,my brother kevin just texted me that he and his wife were going to the performance that was scheduled tonight. the original artwork and production set for the performance has all been destroyed, and many of the instruments. later, he simply texted me, "I had my seminary graduation there." again: so simple, yet so special. [sidenote: check this out. what an awesome testimony. also, this is a beautiful tribute]
"Tabernacle. :(" -hannah
strange how much one little building can be based around so many powerful memories and affect so many lives.
it will be forever remembered in the hearts of those who have grown up here and those who have since connected with it. if you have any affiliation or memory of the tabernacle you'd like to share, i would love to read it in the comments. and if not, i hope that maybe through my memories and the others' sentiments above, you can at least vicariously get to know the old building a little bit. it is worth getting to know.
*kody threlfall was one of those friends, who took the beautiful photographs that accompany this post.