It was one of those monumental events in your life that you can remember the exact place and time when you heard the news.
Mostly, residents of Newcomerstown remember it as a dark day in the village. One resident said the October sky seemed extremely dark that morning 10 years ago as the St. Paul Lutheran Church burned to the ground.
"One member called me. We came down and watched it crumble," St. Paul Lutheran Church's 10th Anniversary Committee Chairman Harold Riffle said.
The fire, which was believed to be set Oct. 19, 1999, is now being remembered as the church rises from the ashes and into the 21st century.
Even though the church was destroyed that fateful day, Riffle said the congregation stayed strong and stayed together. The 400 members still came to church each Sunday even though their house of worship was destroyed. Church services were held in the East Elementary gymnasium where they would set-up each Sunday for about 200 members and bring a portable organ for the services.
"Being able to do that, it helped hold our congregation together," Riffle, who was also the chair of the Building Committee, said.
It took three years and about $1.8 million to rebuild the church. The money came from fund-raisers, church members and from churches across the state that wanted to donate.
Ten years later, the church is debt free and is remembering the fire, that is believed to have been set by an arsonist, as well as looking ahead to the church's future.
A special two-day program is scheduled to do just that.
On Saturday, Oct. 17 from 2 to 5 p.m., there will be special guest speakers, musical entertainment and light refreshments.
St. Paul Lutheran Church's Pastor The Rev. Kenneth G. Hacker will open the day's events which will be followed by musical presentations from Brianna Jennings, Bob McClure, Mary Ann Schwab, Shannon Hunt, Chris Hughes, Beth Dulaney, Brenda Widder and Miriam Stein. Guest speakers will include a representative from the Bishop staff; The Rev. William C. Haggis II, former pastor and pastor during the fire and rebuilding efforts; Jim Carr, former mayor of Newcomerstown; Steve Guy, current mayor of Newcomerstown; representative from the Newcomerstown Fire Department; Linda Collins, former East Elementary principal; David Branch, former Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District superintendent; Tim Hawk, architect for the new church; Steve Brode, builder of the new church; and a representative from Bunn Minnick, who built the church's new organ from pieces of the old organ that were salvaged in the fire.
On Sunday, Oct. 18, a special Sunday Unity Worship will be from 10:30 a.m. to noon with soloist Susan Campbell singing the "Lord's Prayer," guest pastor The Rev. William C. Haggis II will speak, and a congregational luncheon will take place.
"The day will be a healing service and celebration," Susan Hinton of the church said, "focusing on the things we have accomplished since the fire."
Both days, photos and memorabilia will be displayed.
St. Paul Lutheran Church was founded Nov. 11, 1832, in a little log cabin in Newcomerstown. The fire in 1999 was not the first disaster which had befallen St. Paul Lutheran Church. On March 11, 1955, a tornado ripped through Newcomerstown which caused extensive damage to the church.
Monday, Oct. 19 officially marks the 10 year anniversary of the fire that destroyed the church but it did not destroy the hopes and dreams of the congregation because "with God all things are possible."