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Fire won't stop historic celebration

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By Rusty Surette, NEWS 9

JERUSALEM, Okla. -- A small community in McClain County refused to let a fire stop their celebration of a historic settlement.

A fire destroyed the Jerusalem community center on Friday, July 26. The building used to be a historic church. It was the last standing structure on land that was settled by freed slaves.

"It's history that's just gone. It's something that we all looked forward to," said Montenez Reinhardt, who has ties to burned building. "Something that I planned on showing my children and to my grandchildren and carrying it on through the family and the community."

Members of the community that have connections to Jerusalem and its history met for an annual celebration. They are remembering the past and looking towards the future.

Saturday's celebration had to happen in the nearby town of Cole.

The group, young and old, are still in chock over the loss of the church building.

"Mr. Bradford kept asking me what would be in a person's heart that would make them do this? My answer was nothing," Melissa Rabe, a resident who lives near Jerusalem said. "There could be nothing in a person's heart that would make them burn down this historic landmark."

Investigators said the fire was intentional since the building had no gas or electricity.

"They had to know that by destroying the building they were not messing with an individual, they were not messing with a family, they were messing with an entire community," Reinhardt said.

County commissioners have said they'll leave the debris from the fire for another week or so for anybody who wants to come take pictures of what is left. Then they'll come out, clear the debris, and start to make way for a new building.

"We will rebuild, you know, to carry on the tradition and the community. It's not going anywhere just because the buildings gone," Reinhardt said.

Police are still investigating who caused the fire and why.

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