The pristine Marian statue survived extensive smoke damage and a fire last July 16 at Advance Cast Stone, a company in the tiny, rural community of Sherman. (Submitted photo courtesy Elizabeth Yank)

On July 16, 2008, sometime before 8 p.m., lightning struck, causing an electrical surge, sparking a fire in an outlet box. Fortunately, a firefighter living in the area saw heavy smoke and called 911. Because of the construction and composition of the roof, the fire persisted until the early hours of the morning.

This was no ordinary fire. Nineteen fire departments from three counties with more than 200 men were called to the scene. They drained the municipal water tower of a nearby town and then began drawing water from a nearby lake. The inferno caused more than $1 million dollars in damage, totally destroying three overhead cranes crucial to their work. Thankfully, no lives were lost.

When the fire had subsided, soot coated the interior of the large workspace that the employees use to manufacture the panels and beams.

The previous owner, Erhard Garni, now deceased, and father of the present owner of the company had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother. On occasion, when there was left over concrete, the employees would fill a Blessed Mother mold to create an outdoor statute. Son, and now third generation owner, Matt Garni, continued this tradition.

After the smoke had cleared and it was safe to enter the building, Matt Garni entered the building and was greeted by an amazing sight. A Blessed Mother statue, which normally stands at the entrance, had been brought inside the day before for minor repairs. There she stood, a pristine – dare I say “Immaculate” – Blessed Mother against a black backdrop, untouched by the soot.

Even more amazing, although there was extensive smoke damage, the roof irreparably lost, and three of four cranes lost, the worst damage was contained in the back section of the building where the fire started. The statue seemed to stand guard over the lower interior of the building, preventing the fire from continuing on to the offices. If the fire would have spread, the company would have lost everything.

Even in the most traumatic moments, the Blessed Mother truly takes care.

By the way, July 16 is the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel.