The rock from the thirty mile fire reminds me to be awake every day. It says, we don’t know how much time we have. It helps me see students as flesh and blood. Finally, it is a symbol of a chapter in my life ending.
During the summer of 2001, my wife and I traveled to
We arrived back in Selah, where it was also brutally hot. Amy still had some vacation left and so we decided to spend the last weekend in a quaint little town north of
When we got back from La Conner, the news of the fire was all over the papers, still. It dominated the conversation in
Then, September 11th happened. While the events of 9/11 dominated the news, eliminating the story of the fire almost entirely, many people hadn’t full processed the tragic loss of these young people. The world went on, for some before we were ready to let go.
I taught that first year at YVCC in a fog. By the end of the second year, I still was not comfortable in my new position. At the end of the third year at YVCC, I was invited to go for spring break to a cabin near
The second thing that struck me was how present they all felt. There was a small series of markers for the four that died. Up the rock slope a bit, some people had placed mementos. I took my journal and sat on that rock slide and just looked around. The creek was peaceful enough. The fire that they had been fighting had scorched the forrest for as far as I could see, going north. Going south, as I said, hardly at all. Green trees all over the hills on one side of me and wasteland on the other side.
I looked down at the rocks I was sitting on and picked one up. It was mostly white with black flecks in it. Or black with white flecks in it. I put in the palm of my hand and closed my fingers around it’s edges and sat there listening and looking around.
I stuffed it in my pocket and drove back to the cabin with the window down and music playing. I didn’t say much when I got back. I told my wife and friends where I’d been and we went on with our day.
When I got home, I took the rock with me to YVCC and put it on a shelf over my desk. When I look at it now, I am reminded to be grateful for each day. I am reminded that the students I teach are people with histories, families, lives outside of school and all of our time is short. I am reminded that the students sitting in front of me today, might not be there tomorrow. That I might not be there tomorrow. But mostly, when I pick the rock up and bring it to class, I am reminded of Karen, Jessica and Devin.