Meaningful objects lost in the rubble

Minnehaha teachers reflect on items lost in, saved from wreckage

North Campus is dark and quiet now. Senior hall will no longer be filled with the laughter and life with which Minnehaha students once filled it. It is no longer filled with the dreams and ambitions of the students who once roamed its halls.

The blast on August 2 rattled the Minnehaha family. Everyone was affected, everyone lost something and everyone has had to process these losses in their own way. The community mourns particularly the losses of two dear members of our community, Ruth and John.

By this time last year, students would already be mostly settled into the new school year. Students would be studying for exams, running to make it to class before the bell. But this year, it’s different. North Campus is still and quiet. It’s so serene that it is difficult to believe the impact it had on all of the Minnehaha community. But the memories live on and they will not be forgotten. Fortunate teachers have been able to salvage some of their valued items from the school.

“It was different,” said Scott Scholl, math teacher, of going back into the devastated North Campus building. “It was kind of hard to look down senior hall because that’s where a couple people lost their lives. Things obviously weren’t the same. My room was totally pitch black dark because there weren’t any windows so I just had a flashlight. It kind of caught me off guard for a couple of seconds and then I got around to what I had to do, I had to retrieve my stuff there. You’re kind of caught with that feeling of what happened here as well of the interest of what happened here.”

For many teachers, the classrooms at North Campus were like a second home. Some taught in the same room for years. During their time in their classrooms, many teachers made it their own by bringing meaningful mementos, artwork, cards and photographs to bring life and color into their workspaces.

History teacher Jennifer Tillman holds a work of art that she was able to rescue from her classroom at north campus. Photo by Annika Johnson.

“Some of the most important items lost were student samples and personal items that students had given me over the years,” said Jennifer Tillman, history teacher. “I had thank you notes from former students and drawings that my daughter had given me. I also lost my Snoopy collection and items of historical note such as a piece of the Berlin wall and old artifacts such as a cell phone, cassettes, floppy disk, typewriter from the 80s, record player and records.”

Another important thing that teachers wanted to save were special items from their old rooms and items that were one of a kind and unique.

“I did manage to save the manual typewriter,” said Robyn Westrem. “That really heavy thing was in the right place so that it wasn’t damaged. That’s the main thing. A lot of other stuff was just paper. I had so much stuff from twenty years of teaching.”

However, many teachers feel that having lost these items won’t be of as much importance in the long run.

“One part of me is kind of thinks that ‘oh no’ I lost several hours that I’d invested in these books, but really when you step back it’s not important,” said Seth Johnson, English teacher. “There were things of much greater importance lost in that building, that of course being Ruth and John. And for me to feel upset over a couple books seems really silly. I did feel some frustration at first, but it’s been a pretty quick thing to forget. “

Other teachers were able to salvage many of the things that were most important to them. Some of these were of personal importance or were gifts from students.

“[One thing that was saved] is this chair,” said Scholl. “In 2005 my mom died in a car accident and when I came back from the funeral, my students had all pitched in to buy a huge bouquet of flowers and they had left over money and with the leftover money they bought me a chair. It was the one thing I definitely wanted and was hoping I could still get from the building.”

Math teacher Scott Scholl sits in the chair that students pitched in to help purchase for him after his mom died in 2005. The chair was among some of the things that he was able to rescue from his classroom. Photo by Annika Johnson.

Many teachers are glad to have their belongings back because of the time invested in them. Many teachers have personal copies of books and novels that they annotated with notes. These are especially important for teachers who use those books as teaching materials and resources.

“[I’m glad to have] the novels that I use to teach,” said Kristofor Sauer, English teacher. “The ones that are all annotated and the majority of my lecture notes were able to be salvaged. I’m exceedingly grateful for that, that is without exaggeration, hundreds of hours of work that I don’t have to replicate now.”

Despite all of the pain and hardship people are going through, it is amazing how strong the community is. Everyone is coming together and in the end, may become closer through this extremely devastating time.

“My favorite part about the old school is still here,” said Sauer. “It’s the people who are here at the new site. I was talking to a senior three days after the blast happened, he said ‘it’s more than a building.’ That thought kind of crystallized an extremely important understanding for our school community. And that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t affect us, it does hurt. John and Ruth were a part of that community. They were a part of that more in that it’s more than a building. And at the same time, people don’t come to MA for the building…All of the stuff that was lost, it was just stuff, stuff is replaceable.”



About Annika Johnson

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