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Town creates its own luck

Prophetstown’s downtown fire a year ago became a defining moment for a community that creates its own luck and capitalizes on it.

Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

Dolores Francis of Prophetstown knows something about luck.

It was 3 a.m. July 15, 2013. Sound asleep in an upstairs apartment as flames roared through a quarter of Prophetstown’s business district, Francis was definitely in harm’s way.

Half an hour later, the roof of her apartment would collapse onto her bed.

But Francis was no longer in it.

She’d been rescued by a police officer and three firefighters who broke through her door, woke her up, and escorted her downstairs to safety.

Francis reflected on her brush with death at Tuesday evening’s 1-year anniversary ceremony at Prophetstown’s Eclipse Square.

“If they hadn’t gotten me up, I’d have never gotten to that stairway,” she said as she honored the four men – police officer Bruce Franks and firefighters Jamie Melton, Phillip Garrison and Joe Froelinger – who saved her life.

“So I’m lucky. I’m lucky. I’m very lucky.”

They say luck happens when preparation meets opportunity.

Well, the city was prepared with quick-thinking, brave rescuers when the opportunity arose for them to save a life. And they did.

It was no small task to limit the fire damage, but local and neighboring firefighters did just that. Luckily, a good portion of the downtown was saved.

Speaking of luck, has the community been lucky that seven new businesses opened in the downtown in the year since the fire?

How much did luck play in the announcement that IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union would be the first to build in the space left empty by the fire?

We say the Prophetstown community again created its own luck. Ever thinking forward, leaders brushed aside despair and worked to clear the charred rubble of eight historic buildings that housed a restaurant, variety store, salon, monogram shop and the Prophetstown Historical Society.

Mayor Steve Swanson and local residents chose to fix their focus on the future. To their great credit, community members, exemplified by the Rev. Cheri Stewart, have spoken of the need to forgive the two boys, 16 and 12, who were prosecuted for starting the fire.

Ground was broken Tuesday evening for the new credit union office, and a second new construction project downtown appears to be in the works. An announcement could come by year’s end.

The flames and smoke of 2013 have given way to optimism and unity in 2014 in Prophetstown, a strong community that works hard to create its own luck and capitalize on it.

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