A requiem for a building burned

Let me sing a requiem for a place I loved and hated; hated for its pain and loved for its family memories.

This was my high school, which was destroyed by fire on January 5, 2001.

(I am not the photographer, and I do not know who was.  This was sent to me.)Bauxite High School building in flames

second photo, thirdphoto

This was the main building for a very small school. Given that my graduating class had 33 people in it, I think you can quickly understand that what you're seeing is the destruction of an entire school.

Sayonara, you old building, steeped with memories. You went down with quite a fight, it seems. There is, apparently, more truth than I expected in the statement "You can't go home again."

This is…was…my alma mater. Built in 1937 as a WPA project to aid an economically depressed region of central Arkansas, it served as the focal point for a small, close-knit community. It was old. It leaked. But if you walked down the hall of the lower floor of this building, you could see pictures of every graduate from every graduating class since about the 1930s. My mother was there, as were all of my aunts and uncles and pretty much everyone who ever called my town home. My picture was there as well.

We are occasionally reminded that few things in life have true permanence. Perhaps I thought this building was one of those few things that would stand forever. For someone who did not grow up in Bauxite, it is impossible to convey the importance of this building. It was one of maybe two or three major buildings that survived the collapse of the central Arkansas aluminum industry. It symbolized a still-proud ghost of a mining town gone bust. It was who we were.

I loved this place.
I hated this place.
I wanted to run as far away from it as I possibly could.

A few years later I found myself wanting to walk up and down the halls, just once, maybe twice, alone with my thoughts and the pictures of the past staring ghostlike down upon me.

Every graduate of Bauxite in recent history faced those portraits as they readied to graduate, the faces of our past judging our solemnity with forever-young faces and dated coiffures. On the day that I graduated, I walked those halls and looked up at the face of my mother, face-to-face with the youthful version of a woman I had grown to know a lifetime later.

The past can be humbling in places like these. You know your place—behind your family, your community, your memories. You do not stand alone. You stand behind those who came before you—and, lest you forget, you see their faces every time you walk up and down the hall.

We are sentimental humans, but we do not mourn the loss of brick and mortar. We mourn the loss of a touchstone for our memories.

Sayonara, old building. See you in my memories.