So aside from the snow mentioned in an earlier post we have had lots of excitement. Over summer the school, store, clinic, and power plant were all broken into and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages were done. These people have since been caught but there is more.
A few weeks into school I was just outside of town target practicing with a fellow teacher. As we came around the corner we saw a huge column of black smoke rising from the center of town. We made some calls to people closer in but so far out there was little we could do but guess. We thought it might be a house but the closer we got the more we thought it might be the school.
It turned out that it was coming from the power plant garage which was in line with the school. Several elementary age students were playing where they were not supposed to be and started a fire which caught some one of the bulldozers used to clear the roads in the winter. The black smoke was due to the tires burring.
The building looked bad but was still usable. The dozer will probably not run again and with shipping is quite expensive to replace. But bad as it was it could have been worse. Right next to the garage was thousands of gallons of diesel in large above ground tanks. Had those caught they would have exploded and with as many people as were close in trying to contain the fire, there would likely have been casualties as well as the destruction of the plant which supplies power to our village and the nearby village of Kobuk as well.
And this week some person or persons broke into the post office late at night. There was a loud alarm that went off about 1 or 2 am and then shut off shortly after. The next day we came in to school to find that phone and internet was down for the whole town. We later
found out that in the process of robbing the post office or in trying to turn off the alarm, the thieves cut and ripped wires some of which went to the GCI building (GCI is the only internet and phone carrier out here) attached to the post office.
As the damage was physical requiring repairs, a technician and likely new hardware, I believed that we would be down for days at least or more likely weeks. Somewhere someone deserves a big thank you. A special flight out was chartered from Kotzebue and by 11:00 am everything was working again. This was especially helpful because we were in the middle of our Fall testing to establish base scores so we can figure out the kids growth over the year.
So for the foreseeable future we are again without a post office, but at least we were able to finish testing.
To top it all off, Saturday we woke to find that someone had tried to hot wire the four wheeler in the night. Now the four wheeler is parked right below my bedroom window and within range of the porch motion sensor light. My only explanation is that they managed to come from just the right angle not to set the light off, otherwise I surly would have woken up. Fortunately they never got it started. It is a trick to start even with the key let alone after cutting and bridging wires. I say fortunately and I do mean for them because I am fairly confident that had they gotten it going, I would have woken up and all would not have been well…
This is my third year in Shungnak and several of the teachers have four or five. This is the first time in that span that the break ins and vandalism have been at this level. It may just be that it is all randomly happening right now or something in the water or there may be other factors that we are not aware of but it does make it much less pleasant to live here and everyone I have talked, staff and village, visitor and local agree, something needs to be done.
The question is what. For years people have wanted a trooper or police officer stationed here permanently. It is a nice idea but impractical. The city simply does not have the funds to pay for it. Right now our permanent VPSO (village police safety officer or something like that) is out of town and we have only intermittently had any kind of law enforcement. It is easy to suppose that to be the reason, but we have had similar situations in the past without so much incident.
I think that many people are frustrated because there has been a lot of work done in this community, not just by the teachers but by people who have lived here there whole lives, to make Shungnak better. They have worked to make it a safer place and a better place and when these kind of things happen it undermines the effort. It is my hope that the effort will continue and that despite the setbacks, Shungnak will continue to improve.