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Community 'heartbroken' by fire at tabernacle


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PROVO -- The scene of the fire at the Provo Tabernacle attracted onlookers all morning. Many of them expressed disbelief at the loss.

The impact on the community is hard to underestimate. Many people on the scene say they have a personal connection to the building, that they've been there many times for a variety of events.

The building has hosted meetings and conference for local LDS stakes, for BYU, for the Freedom Festival, for concerts and for a variety of cultural and civic celebrations.

"We're all really devastated," said Provo Mayor John Curtis. "Everyone in Provo has significant memories of concerts, plays, church meetings. It's an extremely vital part of my community. It's really a fabric of the community."

The fire is heartbreaking for many onlookers, like James Erickson. "I almost want to cry. So many memories in there and not a bad one," he said. "I really hope it was an accident."

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Provo resident Carl Bacon said, "This is one of the great landmarks of Provo. The building has been here, of course, for many years. I don't know the exact date. We have many, many meetings that we hold in this sacred place. So this is a huge loss. We were here when the roof collapsed. It was just a horrible sound. It's a sad day. There's a great deal of emotion that most people will feel as I do. I just hope we can save it as much as possible, but it's devastating right now."

Mayor Curtis said he is "devastated, heartbroken." He added, "This building represents so many things to almost every resident of Provo and really the entire valley. Graduations and ceremonies and important meetings and then just the symbolic nature of the building, its architecture and the historic way it came about. It's just tragic, heartbreaking."

Many people came out just to watch the firefighters battle the blaze, while others were there to take photographs.

The fire is already going viral as people spread the news on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. A woman tearfully shot video of the fire and posted it on YouTube. Click here for that.

Facebook users have posted statement including "This is insane," and "This is awful."

"It's just like this big hole is missing," said Orem resident Sherri LeBaron. "I can't imagine Provo without the tabernacle."

The internet is abuzz with reaction to the fire. The writer behind CJane's guide to Provo says she hopes it can be rebuilt, if not saved.

"I'm really hoping that there is some way to save some part of the history of the place," she said. "This morning, when I saw that it was up in flames, I felt a shock like I would if it was a family member. I think that losing the Provo Tabernacle is like losing a prominent member of our society. It's going to be felt far and wide. It's a huge loss."

Composed with contributions from John Daley and Becky Bruce

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