We’ve all seen it. The occasional nasty comment about Lewiston and its residents posted on social media.
We’ve read the tee-heeing and tried to ignore the ugly barbs.
But, in the shadow of Monday’s devastating arson fire that left 75 people homeless and another fire Friday night that left 100 people homeless, we’ve seen enough from anonymous cowards.
Lewiston is a tough town.
Good people live here.
Is this city perfect? No.
But this city does not deserve the level of verbal snark and Facebook contempt it gets. Particularly from people who don’t live here.
And more particularly when we’re hurting.
On Monday, hundreds stood in the bright afternoon sun and watched as three apartment buildings were consumed by fire in a matter of hours. No one was hurt, but treasured possessions and family pets were lost.
Then, late Friday night people ran from their smoke-filled apartments and crowded in the streets. They were clutching crying infants and screaming in search of older children.
In bare feet and nightclothes, they stood watching their homes burn.
That level of despair deserves compassion.
The kind quickly offered by the people who live here and who want to do everything they can to help.
At the YWCA of Central Maine on Saturday, donations of clothes were stacked high. Shoes were paired and lined up against the wall. Coats were hanging neatly and toiletries were organized for easy selection.
Thousands of items had been donated, and dozens of volunteers were giving up their free time to help organize and distribute the goods.
That’s the kind of people who live here. They’re not all prosperous, but they’re willing to help a neighbor in need.
It’s a city that cares.
That’s the Lewiston we know.
We also know this about Lewiston:
We are home to two outstanding hospitals and myriad medical specialists and innovators.
There are dozens of arts venues, including the celebrated Franco-American Heritage Center, The Public Theatre, long-known for its excellence and a growing number of galleries and studios. And, just last month, the city co-hosted the stunning Lewiston Auburn Film Festival.
There are downtown vegetable gardens that residents have cultivated from abandoned lots, bringing fresh vegetables and the satisfaction of growing their own food to our neighborhoods.
The city boosts a variety of elegant eateries and family-friendly restaurants, and will crown its American Culinary Federation chef of the year this Monday.
Every summer, tens of thousands of people come here for the Great Falls Balloon Festival, one of a growing number of downtown festivals, like the Liberty Fest, the internationally renowned Bates College Dance Fest, the Franco Fest and this year’s inaugural Ice Fest and the Mini Maker Faire.
We host trade shows, home shows, shop at farmers markets and route dozens of charity walks every year.
The city has become a draw for fitness events, including the popular Greater L-A Triple Crown 5K Triple Series, Bands on the Run Half Marathon & 5K and, of course, the Dempsey Challenge.
We have a strong public library, devoted teachers in our schools, financially conscientious municipal officials, tirelessly dedicated police officers and firefighters, active charitable organizations and engaged social service agencies.
The magnificent Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul is a beacon of ongoing faith and a showplace of period architecture.
The city’s waterfront is a downtown gem and will sparkle even more once Museum L-A moves into its new location adjacent to Simard/Payne Memorial Park.
Bates College, the University of Southern Maine, Central Maine Community College and other public and private academic institutions are successfully educating our youths.
And — we can’t say this clearly enough in light of the week’s events — Lewiston has a lower crime rate than other big cities in Maine.
This city is home to thousands of good people, including many who move here seeking social services. The city is home to thousands more workers who commute here every day because they choose to be part of Lewiston.
It’s not perfect.
But it’s home.
We take pride in that.