Fire at the Hildebrandt Building

Words and Images by Billy Ritter-

It was the start of yet another magical evening at the Hildebrandt. Our monthly third Saturday open studio event. The [Walton Avenue Atelier] was set beautifully as always, with a hopeful and fresh crowd, anticipating greatness. I had just finished making 40 new long awaited dinner plates and wrapped the ware cart for the evening. Literally in the following seconds as I was ready to lock up and head to the event, a passing crowd outside my studio door informed me that the building was on fire. 
My heart dropped.
I looked up, the black smoke behind them was thin. I thought, we still had a moment. Something told me to open our studio windows and not lock the door just incase. -Where this wisdom comes from in a state of panic escapes me, but it’s usually right. Know that. As I exited the building I already heard the sirens on their way. 
In the following thirty minutes I paced around our historic compound outside, scrupulously watching the body language of the firefighters. They weren’t panicked, this was a drill, they had this. I felt assured for a moment as I thought about all of what could possibly be at jeopardy here. (The building, our dreams, our projects, each of them, where was the fire?) The next second...If you’ve never heard the sound of a fire truck hose blasting out glass windows, it’s sort of beautiful and horrifying in an unexplainable sort of way. (I closed my eyes) they were just controlling the smoke, I was certain of it. {Time then stopped. I snapped a lot of pictures as my hands shook erratically.} Somewhere between here and then there were so many seconds that happened in not knowing but hoping. And just like fast as the dynamic and angelic Cleveland Fire department had arrived, they were now exiting in droves, folding up hoses, punching and joking with one another, the party was over. And though it was never spoken by the audience of many, we knew they had saved us all from unknown fates. And so, in the awkward silence of the next few minutes we were all waiting for a report. What happened? ..Turns out a roll of carpet around the loading dock mysteriously caught blaze. Mysteriously. From what, time will tell. In the interim, I am thankful for all of the spirits of positive energy and light and the universe of beautiful good that has saved us all from the other ways that it could have gone. And lastly but most importantly, all of the love and gratitude to the swift and amazing men of the Cleveland Fire Department. THANK YOU!!!