Fire destroys historic Paola, Kan. schoolhouse

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PAOLA, Kan. --As nearly a foot of snow blanketed the region Thursday, Paola, Kan., was also dealing with a burning school house -- a historic treasure in Miami County. The Trinity Lutheran School caught fire Thursday morning.

It's a two room school house that served children for almost a century. The school was actually closed last year, but the sight of it engulfed in flames was enough to reduce many in the small town to tears.

Near blizzard conditions, punctuated by lightning, wind and bitter cold Thursday morning didn't help firefighters trying to get to a blazing fire ripping through the small school house.

"The highway crew was cleaning the road and the fire trucks were right in behind them. The were right line up so the roads were quite treacherous -- they got here as quickly as they could in the conditions," said Kevin Debrick, who attended the school years ago.

Traveling about 30 miles per hour, firefighters came in from neighboring towns, trying to save the building that for years was the educational and social centerpiece of Block, Kan.

"When I was watching it burn I just thought about all the, all the lives that have been touched by this building. Generations of people who have gone to school here," said Greg Windler, the Chairman of nearby Trinity Lutheran Church who also attended the school.

Brothers-in-law Debrick and Windler join a family of at least four generations that attended Trinity Lutheran School.

"There was a lot of wonderful memories," said Debrick.

"I was sitting right over here looking out that window, when I was in grade school. Watch the cars go by. Dream about what we're going to do after school. Dad rode his horse to school," said Windler

The two watched Friday afternoon as the site still smoldered. The only thing left untouched, a flag pole bearing the words God Bless America.

"We just have to move on. God doesn't promise us to have lives without heartache and sorrow," said Windler.

"I guess just seeing the church in the background knowing that its all got to be part of God's plan," said Debrick.

Debrick and Windler think a lightning strike may have been the cause of the fire even though they say the building had lightning rods. The fire department is investigating.

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