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Bryan Library Fire... 10 Years Later

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It was an incident that changed a city. Monday March 28 is the tenth anniversary of the Bryan Library fire. Police say arsonists set the fire out of retaliation against the city, but it did nothing more than bring the city together.

It's business as usual at the Bryan Public Library, but that wasn't the case 10 years ago. That's when firefighters responded to an early morning fire at the library's front entrance.

Clara Mounce, head of the library system, remembers it like it was yesterday. The fire, meant to rip the community apart, actually brought the community together.

"The support that I got from the community, the city employees, my friends, my staff, my husband; I still get teary eyed when I think about it, how wonderful they were to help," said Mounce.

Carol Weatherford worked at the library 10 years ago. She'll never forget the early morning fire and commotion that followed.

"I remember coming to work and seeing pandemonium on the library lawn. We were all so worried about the library, and then everyone just pitched in and took over and did whatever needed to be done," said Weatherford.

Authorities say it was an act of retaliation by the arsonist who was angry over a past run-in he'd had with Bryan police.

Library assistant Tina Swartzlander enjoys hearing stories from Mounce and Weatherford. She says she still sees how close knit the Bryan community is.

" We really like to see the kids come in here and adults as well. We have regulars that come in that we form friendships with, and when they come in we know them by name," said Swartzlander.

It costs $ 1.2 million to repair the damage from the fire. The library is planning for upgrades and improvements for next year, all the while focusing on what the community want and needs.

"We're going to have some focus groups and talk to the community about how they want to see their library grow," said Mounce.

The library is keeping up with the times by providing computers and the Internet, but librarians hope that people will still come to experience the joys of a good book.

Clyde Settles of Midland was the man convicted of breaking in and setting the fire at the library. He was sentenced to 99 years and remains in prison in Huntsville.