The nativity scene in Wisner Park has been part of Elmira’s holiday celebrations for decades.
Members of the community are coming together, looking to pick up the pieces and rebuild, following Tuesday’s tragic nativity scene fire.
“This was very tragic to a lot of people who look forward to this and so it’s nice to be able to help out,” volunteer Kyle Sullivan said. “This is always been a main focus of our holiday season in the city. It’s been a tradition for 50 plus years. It was just devastating that just due to carelessness somebody decided to try to destroy something that has been so important to people of the community.”
Police say 24-year-old Daniel Peterson-Green intentionally set the nativity scene on fire before fleeing the scene early Tuesday morning.
Peterson-Green remains in jail, as volunteers throughout the community join forces to rebuild the traditional holiday piece before Christmas.
“It really shows the true spirit of Elmira and the people that live here and work here,” Elmira City Councilmember Brent Stermer said.
The initiative, spearheaded by the Elmira Firefighters Union, is aimed at bringing hope and joy to the community during what many see as a very sad time for the city.
“It shows how the community can come together, how everybody can team up and raise funds and volunteer time and just really come together this time of year to try and help out and make everything a little bit better,” Sullivan said.
Although a piece of Elmira’s history is now gone, city officials say the incident has brought the community closer together as it looks forward to the future and making the nativity scene a collaborative effort for years to come.
“We will work on something that has more of a multicultural feel that is inclusive of our community as a whole,” Stermer said. “We look forward to working with different agencies, churches, high schools, and anyone else who really wants to become involved.”