Tony Caldwell '07

by Tony Caldwell '07

October 20, 2005

For most students Fall Break is a time to go home, catch up on some sleep, and possibly even work on solidifying that bothersome thesis for a final paper.  This year a few students chose to travel to the Mississippi Gulf Coast in order to help the hurricane victims get their lives back in order.

For a few students, most of the time was spent at Pass Christian High School. It was not the building which students had attended classes in late August, but rather several rows of mobile classrooms which were parked in a field in DeLisle, Mississippi, a town which neighbors Pass Christian.

The high school building had been flooded up to the second floor and was in disarray.  Students had not attended classes for the six weeks since Hurricane Katrina devastated the town. Though the building had been put out of commission, the school had not.  The high school and middle school teachers worked feverishly alongside volunteers from across the country as they attempted to prepare the new facility to open its doors Monday.

Though their classrooms had been rendered inoperative, these teachers had not been deterred in their passion for teaching. Each teacher was genuinely ready to get their students back into the classroom, in order to re-establish the normalcy which learning brings.

Several students spent their Friday and Saturday working at the new high school as well.  Nearly a thousand desks were moved from the old high school to the new facility, along with tables, chairs and almost anything else which could be salvaged and strapped into the back of a beat up AmeriCorps pickup.

While the volunteers loaded up the pickup truck to make their way back to the high school, a complicated journey with all of the bridges which were out, several teachers sat and discussed the impact of the storm. Each of them mentioned how annoyed they had been in previous years when they were forced to clear out their rooms after barely having gotten them set up for the year, only to come back from what was supposed to be a devastating storm, to find that everything would have remained quite safe. This year, however, the teachers had only been instructed to unplug their computers before leaving on Friday in order to prevent power surges from the electrical storm from damaging the circuits. They had not entered their classrooms since that day. No one was prepared for a storm of this magnitude.

The high school fared well, having only been flooded on the first floor, keeping the second floor classrooms and lockers intact. Walking through the hallways of the old high school was surreal, as lockers hung open, doors covered in pictures, perhaps with a jacket inside. The middle school had not been preserved nearly so well. A teacher long familiar with the school might be able to guess where certain classrooms had been.  The front steps led to an archway, and from there it was a level pile of rubble. One teacher lamented her classroom might be visible were the cafeteria not sitting on top of it.

Though these teachers had faced many difficulties, they were excited about getting back into the classroom. Their buildings had been destroyed, but their schools had not. The Pass Christian Pirates played their biggest rivals last Friday night. Though they lost the game, the spirit of the school and of the town has not been broken, not by the football team of Bay St. Louis, and not by Hurricane Katrina. Wabash men saw something of themselves exemplified in the town of Pass Christian, Mississippi. They saw a people who, though injured, would not stop fighting.

 


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