"Fire @ M's Pub--explosion" followed by the sad emoticon.
I texted back "Noooo" to which she responded with "Sounds Bad".
I quickly jumped on one the local TV stations app on my I-phone where they were reporting that the fire, which broke out around 3pm after an explosion apparently triggered by the overpowering smell of natural gas, was still raging out of control. The images posted online of flames shooting through the four story brick building located at the center on Omaha's historic Old Market District told me all I needed to know-that we had celebrated our last meal at our favorite restaurant as we knew it.
One of the things I love about living in a city like Omaha is that even though the Metro population is inching towards a million people, it's really a big little Midwestern town. Seems everyone knows someone who knows someone who knows someone. So while the thought of a fire at our favorite restaurant took me back to the last time we dined there, my next thought was about my friend Ron, one of the co-owners of M's Pub.
Most of us have experienced a time when some force of destruction and peril is occuring, threatening things we hold near and dear to our hearts and there isn't a damn thing we or anyone else can do to prevent it from happening. This was one of those times for Ron, the employees and patrons of this 43 year old establishment, and to a large degree, the brave and heroic firefighters who did everything they could do on a bitter sub-zero day to minimize the destruction.
It turns out Ron was in Phoenix and heard about the fire when a friend texted him. It was a miracle no one was seriously hurt, and ironically, the smell of gas was so string that many of those in the restaurant and the lofts above it, had started to evacuate when the explosion occurred.
By early this Sunday morning all that was left was an icy shell of the old brick walls that were the backbone of an establishment where Georgette and I, along with countless others, dined, imbibed, savored and celebrated some of the best moments of our lives. Anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and even retirements were celebrated at M's, the most recent being on Dec. 18th, the day I retired. When you had a special moment to celebrate, you went to M's.
Omaha's Old Market, along with the Omaha Zoo, compete year after year as the city's top attract is for visitors. With cobble stone and bricks streets and horse drawn carriages, the Old Market sits downtown not far from the Missouri River, amongst the old warehouses and turn of the century architecture. M's had a tall ceiling, creaky wooden floors, brick walls that were painted white, and a large bar that was smack dab in the middle of the place. It was the oldest operating restaurant in the Old Market and besides having really good food, had a really cool vibe. You could wear jeans or you could dress up and still fit right in. The wait staff was impeccably professional. The place was always bustling. When you needed to recommend a place to dine for our of town guests, M's was a sure bet.
When I first met Georgette and was getting to know her, I remember her telling me at M's was her favorite restaurant. I got to know Ron a few years later and always loved telling him how good our last meal was whenever our paths crossed. I usually run into him on Saturday mornings at a gathering place we both frequent and was looking forward to telling him about my retirement celebration meal at M's. I hadn't seen him for several weeks. Now I know he was in Phoenix.
I couldn't find his contact information today but I did message his brother, also a friend, and asked him tell Ron that he and his employees were in my thoughts and prayers. A few minutes later I heard back from Mark acknowledging my message and stating that Ron was doing OK, all things considered. And a few minutes after that, there was an interview with Ron on a local TV station-he was back in Omaha but hasn't yet gone downtown to look at the destruction. His concern at the present was for his employees and the other businesses in the Old Market that will be affected by collateral damage from the fire.
Ron has a strong faith and deep support network, he'll be OK, but I can't imagine how he will feel when he experiences the full brunt of this tragedy.
The Omaha community will rally and hold out its loving arms as well. That's what strong communities do. Omaha is not alone In that way, but when it happens for those that we know and care about, well, it's special to us.
And Georgette and I, we'll have our memories because memories don't burn.