By Claire Kitzmiller and Maya Pockrose
Students attending Arlington High School have probably walked past at least one of the memorials scattered around the front lawn of the school.
There are two benches, each to honor a student who passed away during his/her time at Arlington High. There are also several rocks dedicated to a beloved teacher and supporters of the school.
One of the benches is in memory of Grace James. She was spending her junior year in Colorado, at a year-long program. The students were taking a field trip to Arches National Park in Utah, and Grace was killed in a car crash. Gracie suffered major brain injuries and two days after the accident, October 17, 2010, she died with her family by her side.
A year after Grace’s death, a remembrance ceremony was held by her memorial bench. On the bench reads, “When the world comes crashing down and the stars lie dimmed in the morning grass, remember that you are not alone; we can fix this world together piece by piece; I’ll tie the strings, fly up and hang them. I’ll remind people of love.” Some of those close to Gracie prepared words of memory and honor to share at the ceremony.
The cement platform was decorated with items to represent Gracie’s short life. Handprints of her closest friends and family were imprinted into the cement.
Gracie also has a mural on the fourth floor of the English wing. The mural is full of life with images that represent her. There is also a quote from Gracie: “I’ve realized that love is the most complex sensation in the world, partly because it’s a mix of everything there is to feel. Finding a definition for it could take a lifetime, and in the end it’s still only a theory.”
The other bench is dedicated to Cameron O’Connor. He was a senior when he tragically passed away. Cameron was known and loved by the community and is dearly missed. His bench sits below a beautiful tree, its branches reaching out in every direction.
Cameron was a middle child, with an older and younger brother. After his death, his family created “The Cam Fund”. The fund was a scholarship given to a student with great potential, just like Cameron. Cameron would have graduated in 2006. On his bench, it says Cameron is “just a breeze away”.
In the corner of the lawn, there is a big, beautiful rock dedicated to Peggy Graham. Graham was a beloved Family and Consumer Sciences teacher. She fought cancer for 15 years before passing away.
Mary Villano, currently in charge of the foreign exchange program, was very close to Graham. Villano remembers, “ [Graham] was loved by the students…she always had people trying to get into her classes.”
Graham taught at Arlington High for more than twenty years, all the while forging friendships with students and faculty alike.
In her memory, staff members worked together to create a memorial on the school grounds. After two years of fundraising and planning, a garden was planted with a memorial rock in Graham’s honor.
Among others, the main contributors to planning the memorial were Villano, Barbara Gridley, Kim Eudenbach, and Jane Martin. Students planted bushes in the garden as well.
Villano feels it is unfortunate that, “not every student that has passed away or teacher that has passed away has had a memorial”.
There are a few other memorials on the front lawn in honor of those, tightly knit in our community, who have passed away tragically.