Supporting One Another in Loss

Kathryn Coffey

On the early morning on April 1, the building on 526 North Water Street caught fire. Firefighters and the American Red Cross were at the scene, and thankfully, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, The River Coffee Shop and Speakeasy Records & Oddities, were among the businesses destroyed. The building was leveled and labeled a total loss.

It seems like yesterday that these places were both open, but now they’re reduced to ash and smoke.

I’ve never been to Speakeasy, but I’ve always been curious about checking it out. However, I’ve been to the River enough times to know it was my favorite coffee shop.

The River was one of those places that made Decatur really special.

For one thing, the River was the first place where I actually enjoyed drinking tea. The ones I would go for would be green or grey. No matter what tea I would get, I would always ask for it with honey. Even near the end when they added fifty cents to it for the dying honey bees, I still got honey with my tea. It was that good.    

The second thing is the two people that owned it, Abigail and Aaron Moma, are incredible. Their love and dedication reflected everything they did in that place. It would be no wonder the tea would taste so nice. They would always be happy to catch up on the latest going-ons on campus. And they were—and still are—determined to follow what God is calling them to do.  

Third, the River was one of those places that was always photogenic. Almost every drink I ever ordered would be featured on my Snapchat or Instagram. Even outside the coffee shop would look photogenic on some days. But it was mostly inside where the magic was.  

Fourth, it was a place where students can gather to do homework or study some scripture. I wrote a few pieces for the Dec or some of my other classes in that place. It was what the owners were going for, and it worked. I loved studying there.  

Last, but certainly not least, it would be nice to see my friends there, too. They would be there, most likely the same reason I would be there: order coffee or tea, get some studying done, or just catching up. I would feel a sense of community walking in there. And I would sometimes feel a little surprised to see Millikin students I didn’t expect to be there. That was always nice, too.   

When I posted my condolences on Facebook, I didn’t want to share the post with the building burning or burnt to the ground. There’s more than enough sadness in this world, and there’s no need to amplify it with scenes of destruction.

In these troubling times, I’m lucky enough I have friends who ask me if I’m okay. Some even got me to laugh when I felt down.  

When I first saw the River’s post for myself that fateful morning, I never thought it would happen. It was the truth before my very eyes, but I didn’t want to believe a place I loved so much was gone, just like that.      

But seeing how the community responded is a perfect example of what we need to do more often: be helping hands to people experiencing tragedy.  

Both Aaron and Abbie have a community willing to pitch in to give what they can to them. They are individuals who gave so much to this town. In fact, how they and the other owners responded to the tragedy was also astonishing to witness.

The Momas and the other owners have been strong throughout this whole ordeal, and that’s impressive in itself. It’s hard to lose everything in the blink of an eye, just like that. Through it all, it’s refreshing to see these people to find something they’re grateful for even in the midst of hardship.     

As of writing, there are three GoFundMe pages for the River as well as for Speakeasy Records. Bad Love Creative Co photographer Sarah Easter is also selling prints and photos, and all the proceeds will go to help the business owners.  

If anything is going to help them, and the rest of us, get through this tragedy, it’s praying and giving.

While the building may be leveled, the memories will live on forever. It’s a gift that can’t and shall not be forgotten.