Dreams Up in Smoke


“Don’t panic, but…”

These are not three words you ever want to hear.

Let’s face it. Nothing good is coming after the “but.”

No one calls to say: “Don’t panic, but you were upgraded from the middle seat in coach to first class.” Or “Don’t panic, but the kids cleaned the entire house.” (Ok, I might panic at the latter because I would wonder what aliens invaded my children’s bodies and how could I keep them here on planet earth. But you get the point.)

So, last Friday I got the “Don’t panic, but…” phone call from one of the managers at JAG Gym.

“…we evacuated the gym and the firefighters are on the roof trying to save the building.” Yeah, that was the second part of the sentence.

Talk about seeing your dreams go up in smoke.

I will fast forward to the end to tell you that the story has a very happy ending. All of the kids and coaches were safely evacuated to a neighboring elementary school that welcomed them with juice, goldfish crackers and a playground until their parents could come pick them up. The entire JAG staff executed our emergency plan flawlessly (let’s hear it for the positive side of my deep anxiety: well rehearsed emergency plans!). The firefighters safely defended JAG Gym from the flames that were mere feet away from our building. And, in less than 24 hours, we were back open for business. Our Saturday morning classes were in full swing by 8:30am with the only evidence of what almost destroyed a decade long labor of love being holes in the back fence and a slight smoky aroma lingering in the air.

As a friend of my posted on my Facebook, this crisis was a remarkable demonstration of “community at its best.”

Most of this weekend I spent feeling the deep gratitude that no one was injured (or worse). But I also spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about the “what ifs” of the fire, especially the “what if the building burnt down” scenario. What would we do? Rebuild or move on? Could we rebuild?

Without a doubt I knew that the answer was an unequivocal yes.

Sure, my comprehensive insurance coverage (again, let’s hear it for anxiety!) coupled with my stubborn personality would be helpful in making a rebuild possible. But that would only be useful in replacing the building and equipment.

Why I knew that JAG would weather this storm goes back to my friend’s comment: “community at its best.”

JAG isn’t a building. It’s a community. A fire could have destroyed our building, but it can’t take away the community that we have built. And I saw that evidence in action this weekend.

From the employees who flocked to the gym upon hearing the news to the number of messages I received from current and past families expressing their relief that JAG was safe, I understood that JAG is not four concrete walls that contains gymnastics equipment.

JAG is the people who work passionately with our athletes and are committed to doing good things for kids. JAG is the families who trust us with their children’s athletic development, who send their kids to our camps and who celebrate their birthdays with us. JAG is the kids who learn and laugh and who are challenged by this crazy sport of ours. JAG is a vision realized: a place where every child, regardless of natural ability, is treated with the dignity of an athlete and given high quality instruction.

JAG is community at its best.