On November 11, 1991 I was woken by a phone call. A family friend was calling to tell me that my church had been burnt to the ground. Thanked her for calling after having assured myself that she obviously had mistaken my church for one of the others that has recently been the victim of an arsonist. After all it couldn’t be my church. My church was also my school, my place of employment. Certainly my principal would have called me before this distant relative.
Just as I was explaining this all to my husband, the phone rang again. This time it was my principal. It was true. My church, my school had been burnt to the ground. Even though it was Veterans’ Day (a school holiday) would I please come to the school grounds. We also had a daycare and many of the toddlers thought we had burnt with the school. They needed us. So, I went.
I got there just in time to see a fireman tearing apart the student lockers in my second floor classroom. There were no walls on that level. Those lockers were the tallest thing left. The fireman was making sure there weren’t any other items that could cause more damage. It was a heartbreaking moment for sure. That image is what my mind sees when I think of that morning. I hugged many little children that day. Many parents prayed for us. Our church met that evening and sang and prayed on the grounds.
The next morning, we met at a neighboring church. They had quickly volunteered their gymnasium and auxiliary rooms for our use. The teaching staff (all 6 of us) met with our principal, and our school staff. We had no books. No supplies. No idea what we were about to learn. The principal told us all of the records were destroyed. We had no backups. Almost all of the report cards were destroyed. I had taken mine home with me mainly because I didn’t know what to do with them. The veteran teachers had placed theirs in the school safe before they left for the weekend. Thankfully, I also had my grade book with me. I would not have to try to recreate those records.
Since then, I have always had a backup of my grade book. Something I can pull out just in case. Thankfully in this day of computers, it is a simple pdf file stored on a thumb drive and not a stack of paper that I had to copy every couple of weeks or so.
I learned a lot that first year; lessons I could not have learned any other way. But, those are other stories.