A pile of twisted and burned metal after a suspected case of arson in the early hours of Thursday morning is all that is left of the 137-year old Bridgeton Covered Bridge.
The area residents of the rustic town can't help but stand staring at the charred remains of what once was a part of their lives.
"Bridgeton is an older community, and for them it's like going to a funeral," Bridgeton Covered Bridge Association (BCBA) President Mike Rowe said. The owner of the Bridgeton Grist Mill spent the day listening to people tell him their memories of the bridge. "This has definitely impacted everyone who ever came in contact with the bridge. Everyone has a story to tell."
Childhood memories of swimming just just below the bridge in the summertime, stories of father and son fishing trips and family picnics taking place at the park area around the bridge are whispered as people gather.
Some people have been there since the first firefighters arrived shortly before 1 a.m.
"My mother graduated from the Bridgeton High School years ago. They used to have school outings at the bridge," area resident Barbara Crowder said, pointing to a grassy area filled with burnt metal. She's been at the scene all night providing coffee for the firefighters. With red eyes from crying and shivering from the cold, she just can't seem to leave. "My mother was just devastated this morning when I talked with her on the phone."
Others can only take a few minutes looking at the rubble before their emotions get the best of them, and they have to leave.
"I just can't look anymore," one woman, who didn't want to be identified, said as she got into her car. "I just can't believe this has happened."
Then there are those who have to come back.
"Artists used to come to town to paint pictures of it. Camera clubs took pictures of it," said Blanche Case, a long-time resident and BCBA member. She said the bridge wasn't just a major tourist attraction for the town which was considered one of the most beautiful in Parke County, it gave the community pride. "You couldn't go in town during the summer without seeing an out-of-state licence plate on a parked car somewhere."
Case stood with many other townspeople in the early darkness watching the tragic fire. She left but returned again later in the day.
"I looked at it burning and couldn't believe it was happening," Case said. Devastated is the only word she can find that describes her feelings. "It just makes your heart ache to look at it."
As emotions run high among the crowd, which grows to include people from surrounding counties as the day continues, the questions become greater as anger slowly takes over for grief.
"Why? What could possibly be the mind set of someone that could do this," Bridgeton resident Kathy Crague said. She, like many other people, want to know and understand the person reported to be in custody and of interest to the investigation by the Parke County Sheriff's Department. "What does a person get out of it, trying to destroy this many people's lives?"