The GPS directed me to the abandoned suburban school. Along the perimeter of the property, signs and banners covered the chain-link fence. Passerby’s stopped to take pictures of the collateral to capture where “it” took place. I found the entrance and parked my car.
The school shooting, a few months prior, rocked this affluent community. Lives were lost, the school year disrupted, and media attention distracted teachers, administrators, students, and parents. In spite of this, the chatter among the teens remained consistent with what I remember when I was their age. Mrs. Dee commanded the room and her students had her respect. This felt like a normal classroom, but in the back of my mind, I knew something happened here.
I opened my tool bag and took out my drill, level, pencil, and anchors. A local business had donated classroom items to the school. On this weekend morning, our team assembled cabinets, hung shelves, and mounted magnetic boards. After the shooting, sections of the school were closed off and existing spaces were re-purposed to handle more classes and activities. We gave Mrs. Dee’s Student Government room a facelift: fresh paint, new storage, and plenty of space to remember the good times.
It felt good to give back. While school shootings are becoming almost ubiquitous with America, this one hit close to home. On my way out, I shook Mrs. Dee’s hand and thanked her for all that she has done.
Recently widowed, Jack and Kate found each other on an online bereavement group. After months of courtship, they decided to take the plunge and unite their two families. Jack moved himself and his two young children across the country to be with his new wife. Kate, a local gal, brought 5 of her own to the new family. Together, they bought a new home to start their next chapter of life.
I arrived at the job at 10am. The house whirled with activity: painters putting the final touches on the walls, the cleaning crew mopping the floors, and handymen installing appliances and toilets. Together with another tasker, our job was to assemble all of the new furniture for the family. Stacks of boxes containing the parts for bunk beds, regular-sized beds, dressers, nightstands, and cabinets filled the garage.
Kate’s kids did not shy away from hard work. Home-schooled and trained to help around the house, the kids pitched in whenever they could. The 3 eldest grabbed their tool-kits and came ready to help us. Over a 2-day period, our team assembled the bunk beds and dressers for the boy’s room; the beds, dressers, desks, and nightstands for the 3 eldest; and a few other pieces.
With the moving deadline quickly approaching, plenty of work still remained. For now, the kids were taken care of; Jack and Kate were content to sleep on their mattress for a few days. In the years leading up to this moment, they overcame plenty of obstacles, but together, everything would be okay.