Every now and then, you hear a bit of news that immediately makes you stop what you’re doing and forget what it was you were doing, or about to do. Last night, sadly, was one of those nights.
I was at Jiffy Lube getting a headlamp replaced on my car, and one of their techs came out to tell the tech who was working on my car, “I hope you don’t like JJ’s on the Plaza. It’s gone”. Neither of the two of us really had any logical reaction – the car was good to go a few minutes later, and as soon as I got back home, turned on the living room tv. What I saw at that point was pretty surreal, as KMBC was showing split-screen footage of the fire at its start as well as real-time video of the rubble still smoldering next to a broken gas line that was still spewing fire into the air.
JJ’s was a 27-year old establishment in Kansas City, boasting one of the world’s largest and most diverse wine selections (listed on their website at 1,800). The popularity of their restaurant cannot be emphasized enough, both as a place for friends and family to go for meals, and businesses to take associates/clients. Their weekday happy hour and dinner schedule began at 5pm, so for this explosion to occur shortly after 6pm and to currently have no known fatalities is nothing short of incredible.
I cannot give enough credit and respect to the KCPD and KCFD, including Chief Berardi, for their handlng of the entire situation. Kansas City’s mayor Sly James has been a beacon of calm and reason during everything, and continues to do an amazing job keeping the public informed and updated on details – including a briefing shortly after 6am today that I caught before leaving for work. Also, respect to the Q Hotel in Westport, who kindly offered up free hotel rooms for the night to anyone who was displaced as a result of the explosion and fire. KCATA parked several buses just outside of the PD/FD perimeter for victims and evacuees to get on board and stay warm. This is community involvement and outreach at its best, in my opinion.
Alas, with all good will also come some bad. With the fire being as much of an issue as it was last night, local news stations remained on-air to provide coverage and updates, and therefore preempted scheduled network programming. GOD FORBID YOU MISS A BRAND NEW EPISODE OF RAISING HOPE. What we quickly learned last night is that the viewer base for The Bachelor and NCIS (locally, at least), are among the biggest batch of knuckledraggers around. Erica Smith (@ericasmith) compiled a screenshot list of some of the complaints last night, and put them together in a quick one-shot piece. This was only a sample of what was out there last night. Ladies and gentlemen, SHIT HAPPENS. Programs get rescheduled. Representatives for all the local network affiliates (KMBC, WDAF, KSHB, KCTV) were quick to communicate when said network programming would end up being aired. Deal with it. Pay attention to their information. Get a Hulu Plus account to watch on demand. Just don’t be a dick.
Speaking of dicks, there was a local user of social media last night (I won’t give his name, he doesn’t deserve the credit) who posted the following: “I heard that the Country Club Plaza is having a huge bonfire tonight. I heard that you can see it for blocks. Bring the smores and hot dogs and stay warm. Hurry before the fire department puts the fire out.”. You, sir, are an asshole (He’s now claiming that his account was hacked, which is the cool thing to do when you’re an asshole but don’t want to own up to your assholery ways). Stop. Just stop.
The important thing to take away from all of this is that in a time of tragedy, a community came together to help out, and while over a dozen people were hospitalized with various injuries, only a couple of them were serious/critical and there have been zero reported fatalities. Human life will always be more important than who ends up being given the rose on your Tuesday night boob tube viewing.
(updated 10:50am 2/20/2013) – Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi and Mayor Sly James have just announced at a press update that a body has been recovered in the bar area of JJ’s; no positive identification yet, no gender determined. 15 others remain listed as injured – 6 still hospitalized, 3 in critical condition. Per Mayor James, this number is a “moving target”. Crews remain at the scene and will continue working until the snowstorm arrives. Next update with Mayor James and Chief Berardi will be at 4:45pm.
(updated 4:45pm 2/20/2013) – per WDAF Fox 4’s website, the recovered body has been identified as 46 year old Megan Cramer, who was a server at JJ’s Italian Restaurant. Thoughts and prayers are with her family in this difficult time.