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News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.

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Boundaries erased

Jul 21, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Sometimes, we must simply be citizens of one community

At times each of us claims citizenship in a neighborhood, a congregation, a work force, a school or a town.

Then there are other times, when street signs are forgotten, when our alma maters mean little, when job titles and pay grades lose significance, when municipal borders no longer matter.

Sometimes we are simply members of the same community.

Often it is tragedy that brings such realization. And we have shared exactly that in recent days through the heartbreak of the Van Dijk family.

By now most know the basics -- the fire, the wind, the sirens. The fear and the loss. The shock and the tears. The anguish.

Feike van Dijk is well known in many local circles. His occupation is assisting others through social service. He worked in Riverton, lives in Lander, worked later on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The nature of that work brought in touch with generations of families from one Fremont County border to the other. He is not native to our county, nor our state, nor even our nation. But he embraced us and our place as the site of his important life's work, and he and his family are familiar faces.

But today even those who don't know the family, who aren't acquainted with one or more of the van Dijks, even those who were strangers before Tuesday are neighbors today.

Not one of us could greet the terrible news of the house fire which killed two children Tuesday night without horror in our hearts. No one who has ever beheld the magnificence which is the happy, healthy, joyous preschool-aged child can confront such news without primal revulsion at the thoughts that accompany it. No parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, sibling, teacher, firefighter, physician, police officer or thinking person of any stripe can fail to sink inside when contemplating that night where Lyon's Valley Road meets the highway.

The worst fear many of us can contemplate has been visited upon a family among us. Those who survived are scarred, both by flames and by realization, both physically and mentally.

In such times it can seem impossible to contemplate anything but the past. But the future is all that is open to us, the only route away from the unspeakable sorrows of Tuesday night.

And it is to that future that we all must dedicate ourselves in the context of the van Dijk family.

If you can lend a hand, their future will need it. If you can spare a thought, a prayer, a care in the world, then you have a gift to bring to that future, which will play out one tenuous day at a time as a family rises from ashes.

In time, the currency of our lives will carry us back behind the walls and within the boundaries of the things that separate us. Most of those barriers are harmless, some even desirable, perhaps a few even necessary.

But in this case, when the need and occasion arise, we all must stand prepared to step outside them again, to do what we can, when we can, how we can. Our shared community and shared humanity require it.