A hawk’s-eye view of high school

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Photo by Jonathan Ellgen, Flickr Creative Commons.


Sur­real. That’s the only word I can find to describe my emo­tions that day. It’s one thing if you see a dis­as­ter hit some­where else and you think, “Oh, those poor people”.

But it didn’t hap­pen some­where else. It hap­pened in the place where I used to sit in the hall­way before class, fever­ishly try­ing to fin­ish an assign­ment. It hap­pened in the place where my friends and I would laugh and joke in the cafe­te­ria dur­ing our lunch period. It hap­pened in the place where I stayed count­less hours in the com­puter lab tire­lessly work­ing on the school news­pa­per. It hap­pened where I grad­u­ated, where I cried as I closed that chap­ter of my life.

A gas explosion destroyed part of the Minnehaha Academy Upper School on Aug. 2, 2017. While the school is
rebuilt, all high school classes have been relocated to the former Brown College campus in Mendota Heights.
Photo by Jonathan Ellgen, Flickr Creative Commons

When a nat­ural gas explo­sion and build­ing col­lapse occurred at my high school, Min­nehaha Acad­emy, on August 2, I was dri­ving to work. I heard the announce­ment on Min­nesota Pub­lic Radio, my heart dropped. Pain racked my chest. I had to pull over to catch my breath. I had vis­ited the school just the week before, dis­cussing news­pa­per redesign for The Met­ro­pol­i­tan with my for­mer jour­nal­ism advisor.

The explo­sion occurred in the area where my senior locker would have been. I kept think­ing: It could have just as eas­ily been me had the cir­cum­stances been different.

Trag­i­cally, two staff mem­bers died. I didn’t know the vic­tims of the acci­dent per­son­ally, but they were a part of my Min­nehaha fam­ily. I couldn’t help but grieve for them and the community.

But the huge­ness of the tragedy didn’t really hit me until a few weeks after it hap­pened. Seniors this year wouldn’t get to prac­tice walk­ing across the same stage as I did. Fresh­men wouldn’t get lost in the maze of hall­ways as I did. Fac­ulty will never be the same with­out Ruth Berg and John Carlson.

As much as I strug­gled in high school, Min­nehaha was the best place for me to be. I grap­pled with men­tal ill­ness dur­ing my junior and senior years, but I couldn’t have asked for a more sup­port­ive com­mu­nity. My coun­selors, teach­ers and peers assured me that I was suc­cess­ful even if I felt quite the oppo­site. They lifted me up.

Min­nehaha shaped who I am today. I will be for­ever grate­ful for the sup­port net­work that I had — and con­tinue to have as an alumna.

I took it for granted that Min­nehaha would stay the same when I closed my locker for the last time. I thought I would leave my high school edu­ca­tion behind me, move on and never look back on those dif­fi­cult years.

In the wake of this heart­break­ing event, I finally came to the real­iza­tion that Min­nehaha will always be a part of me. I will always be a Min­nehaha Red­hawk. And hawks soar together.