Last weekend, onlookers gasped as pumpers from Barrie's Fire Department activated every possible water system to fight a downtown fire.

Michael Brocklebank and Kateryna Kolotylo stood among the crowd, their hearts in their mouths, their futures pounding in their ears. One pumper redirected its power stream next door, and the wooden sign above their european deli cracked in half.

"My soul split with it," said Michael Sunday night as we talked.

While onlookers leave and fire marshalls and police sift through the rubble, the rest of us go on with our lives. But for Kateryna and Michael, their lives went up in smoke.

This is their story.

Both young people (Kateryna is 21, Michael is 31) have been working full time jobs and pouring every cent into equipment for their new shop since February. Michael poured over training manuals, listened to building inspectors and together they re-built 59 Dunlop St W from the ground up. Leaking sewer drains, substandard electrical... thousands of hours were poured into two floors to create What a Dish! When the pair opened their doors two months ago, it was the beginning of a dream come true.

Every penny they own was invested into their business. They served a brisk lunch, fabulous French crepes, wonderful Montreal smoked meat sandwiches. Kateryna, using her culinary skills from her native Ukraine excelled at perogies. Their store shelves were stocked with European goods. Their cooler counter proclaimed European meats and cheeses. The sit-down portion of their deli offered seating at counters and cafe tables. Eating at What a Dish! was like building a relationship with its owners.

Michael hand carved their wooden sign and hung it over the new cladding they'd installed on the outside of the building.

While they were busy inside, they were also concerned about 'activity' occurring in apartments above the store next door. The police responded actively every time they called. While they don't have apartments over their building, the activities upstairs next door made their way onto the What a Dish! roof. It was a scary situation.

And so on Saturday night when an explosion rocked both buildings and firefighters filled the scene with water, Kateryna's and Michael's nightmare began to roll.

"People are telling me, 'oh, don't worry, your insurance will kick in', or platitudes like 'at least nobody was hurt' and it's all true," Michael says. But inside his heart is broken, their immediate future is a completely destroyed building with a lower level filled with water.

Helpless.

Hopeless.

Directionless.

That's where Michael and Kateryna stand today.

Gone are the thousands of hours spent bringing this building up to code. Gone are the thousands of dollars earned in full time employement to invest in their dream. Gone is the daily routine of going into their place and opening up for their regular customers.

How easily forwe get once the smoke clears that people's lives are left in shambles.

And what can we do? We can help people grieve their loss, of livelihood, of anticipation, of future. Platitudes don't help right now. The best response we can give is what can I do to help? Michael and Kateryna's wish list will be long... I'll publish it soon.

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