Work begins restoring St. Mary’s sanctuary

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 9, 2005

Outside St. Mary Catholic Church Saturday afternoon, rained poured as police searched for those who broke into the facility Friday morning, allegedly set it on fire and stole two television sets and a case of sacramental wine.

Inside, the stench of smoke wafted through the building, as employees of Belfor restoration got started fixing the estimated $100,000 of damage to the fellowship hall, upstairs, sanctuary and hallway.

&uot;It’s unreal,&uot; said Ann Sandrock, wiping a marble alter and a depicting of the crucifixion. &uot;It’s surreal. I can’t believe anyone would do this to a church. There’s a lot of smoke damage.&uot;

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Sandrock said it was the first church arson she’d had to help fix.

Over a dozen other employees of the company went to work throughout, as air filters cleaned away the smell and kept objects from becoming contaminated.

&uot;The key thing is being prompt and stopping any further damage,&uot; said production manager Sheila Sexton. &uot;We focus first on anything brass or marble, and remove the soot from them. Soot is like acid on those types of materials.&uot;

The group’s work began at about 1:30 p.m. Friday – nine hours after the fire started and seven after it was out – and went until 7:30 p.m. It re-began at about 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and Sexton said she didn’t know when it would be completed.

&uot;We don’t have power back yet,&uot; she said (VEPCO officials said that it would be back by late Saturday). &uot;We won’t know until we expose everything. We have to hand-clean everything. We replace what has to be replaced, and if it doesn’t have to be torn up, we fix it.

&uot;It could have been a lot worse. We have a structure that’s still standing.&uot;