Beauty from Ashes

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Five short days ago my son's seventh grade life came to a standstill when his middle school went up in flames. For the next 24 hours we heard rumor after rumor about the fate of 580 students and staff. The only sure thing we knew was that classes were canceled for the next 48 hours. I've never experienced being displaced by a catastrophe of this sort and, to be honest, I had little faith in a government entity to concoct a viable solution. I just didn't see how they could reach an agreement much less one that would actually benefit the student body and their families. After last night I have to say I am beyond impressed with this team of administrators and teachers.

When I watched 9/11 unfold from the comfort of my living room I sat in awe of the way people whose lives would typically never cross could come together in the face of a crisis. People are really able to put aside their differences and normal barriers for the common good. It's the "human spirit", isn't it? The aftermath of this fire has proven that time and time again. Within 24 hours of the tragedy we received an email from the school announcing their interim plan to get the kids back to school by Thursday. Unfortunately they would not all remain together but they were able to keep them in their respective grades at three separate schools. We were to attend a meeting for parents and students at the high school to have our questions answered. in simply entering the auditorium, the love and support was palpable. Standing room only. Tears flowing. Hugs offered freely. I thought: "now this is community." Each school official spoke one by one and explained the different facets of the plan from transportation to replacing personal property to the hope of rebuilding the 106 year old structure. When the school's principal took a breath and said "I can get through this" followed by a cracking voice and then tears it became obvious that this wasn't just a job to any of them. They were invested in this community and these children. They had been working tirelessly to devise a plan. One that would retain the school spirit and unity in spite of being separated. One that would insure each and every child felt welcome in their new surroundings. They left no stone unturned and no question unanswered.

I left there knowing it was all going to be OK and that God really does relish creating "beauty from ashes". As I heard story after story, and learned of upcoming fundraisers, I would love to share some of the highlights these last few days have held for our community.
  • The night of the fire my son's social studies teacher called every one of his students to see how they were doing. Called them personally!! He assured them that he and the other three teachers would do everything they could to keep their teams together.
  • We received an email from the principal asking us to assure our son that everything was going to be fine.
  • Three girls stood outside the school all day Sunday with a sign asking for donations to replace the teachers' lost supplies.
  • A seventh grade student organized a bake sale fundraiser for this Saturday at his mom's yarn store with all proceeds going to replace supplies.
  • Three sixth grade girls stood outside a local grocery store in the wind and rain yesterday and collected close to $1000 for the teachers.
  • On Veteran's Day (which is a school holiday) the local indoor sportsplex is donating their building for 2 hours. During this time the community is invited to bring supplies and monetary donations for re-stocking classrooms.
  • The PTSA was able to give each teacher a check last night from the overflow of donations they had already accepted in the past 5 days.
  • The YMCA and Boys' and Girls' club opened their doors to the students for free swimming and gym time.
  • The high school--where the eighth graders will be attending--already had a wing dedicated to the kids, classrooms set up and columns and signs replicating the front of the middle school building. They had even painted the walls with "Wildcat Wing" and a big sign saying "Welcome to your new home!"
Needless to say I want to shout it from the rooftops that we live in an amazing place. Oh, wait there is no roof. So for now this blog post will have to do. May it inspire you to invest in the community where you call home.

1 Comment »

One Response to “Beauty from Ashes”

Jeremy Saunders said...

Dana, I just spent way too long blogstalking you. I love love love reading your blog! Thanks for sharing. And it's funny how we are going through the same things. I remember this day, I think I cried for days because I have volunteered and worked at Whatcom and knew it was just not a building I was mourning for but the community that the staff, parents, and students had built there. Of all the middle schools,Whatcom had the best students/staff, hands down. And I too was so grateful to our community for what ensued this tragedy. I hope you don't mind, but I think I will regularly "check in" on you!
I love your family, and I love being able to get to know Ben. I love his energy and attitude. Aidan likes him too, maybe we will have to set up a play date.