Christmas is certainly a time for wishes and hopes. So here are some things I have been thinking about due to recent events in southernmost Illinois and western Kentucky.

One of my wishes has already come about. That is the demolition of the old Laidlaw plant. The old building going down may have been a blow to many older Metropolis residents who spent their days working in those buildings in the last half of the 20th century. But the conglomeration of buildings had certainly outlived its usefulness, and had become quite an eyesore for people entering town on U.S. 45.

It seems that the removal of the building was a top priority for almost everyone in town. And, there did not seem any good use for those buildings in the modern world.

The demolition did not come easily. The employees, who had spent years making flyswatters and wire coat hangers, moved to a nice new building in the industrial park. And the old buildings sat empty. But there was no money for a costly demo project. The group called Friends of Fort Massac obtained the property, but could not acquire funding for further improvements. Several times, it looked as if funding was available, but it always fell through at the last minute.

Finally, State Sen. Dale Fowler obtained approval for a $200,000 state grant. And the City of Metropolis promised $50,000 out of money which came from selling off waste products from the Atomic Energy Commission across the river.

Three officers of the Friends of Fort Massac have put in many hours over the last few years trying to get the money lined up for the demolition project. They are Mike Korte, president; Bonnie Grace, secretary; and Joan Wientjes, treasurer.

Of course, their work is not over. They have hopes for a historic village to spring up out of the ruins of Metropolis’ oldest industrial areas. But that will have to wait for another day.

Due to higher than expected costs of hauling away the scrap, the donated money did not quite pay all of the demolition expenses. It seems like there were thousands of people begging for the demolition. This would be a great time for people to dig into their pockets to help Friends of Fort Massac pay off the $13,000 remaining on the bill.

Wish it hadn’tThere are all kinds of wishes, but this is one that can’t come true.

I wish the horrible tornado that attacked nearly 200 miles of western Kentucky could have just disappeared.

It caused so much damage, it does not seem possible for it to have happened. Those of us who witnessed the Tri-County Tornado years ago remember the damage to parts of Pulaski, Massac and Pope counties. The path of damage was long and wide. But the blessing for many of us was that the tornado chose a path of mostly rural farmland, with few houses. There were deaths, and there was destruction, but not to the degree felt in western Kentucky.

I have never lived in Central City, Bowling Green, Dawson Springs, Benton or Mayfield, but I have been to them many times. In the late 1900s, The Planet was printed in Mayfield, and then Benton. So, I spent many a Tuesday afternoon putting the pages together down there. Both of the buildings where I worked in Mayfield were destroyed by the recent tornado. So was the building Areia Hathcock, former general manager of The Planet, has been using to manage the Mayfield-Messenger and the Benton Tribune-Courier.

The death toll across Kentucky was nearly 80 people, even though warnings had been put out by the news media for two days. There are just not very many good ways to protect from tornadoes.

We can help ourselves

But there are things that can be done to protect ourselves from another major killer.

In the last year or so there have been over 50 people in Massac County who have died from COVID-19.

Southernmost Illinois has been a real hotspot for the virus. Since the pandemic started, there have been 12,034 cases of COVID-19 cases in the southern seven counties … causing 184 deaths.

There are ways we can slow down this death toll. People can take greater advantage of vaccines. People who can’t take the shots, can wear masks, wash their hands frequently and avoid crowded rooms.

During the COVID-19 pandemic we can improve our odds of avoiding the virus. Unfortunately, neither tornadoes nor the virus can be totally avoided, but being proactive does improve our odds.

Some dreams come true due to the hard work of people working together. However, protecting ourselves from natural disasters and medical crises requires continued effort by all of us.

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