Exactly one year ago I paraded around the halls of my high school in a traditional yet disruptive fashion, tossing candy before door-ways of crowded underclassmen and banging a deep aluminum pan with a plastic ladle. Our thunderously loud senior class wove through every hallway in the school. We flung peppermints through the science wing, blared music through the library, and cheered past the administrative offices. We said goodbye to the people with whom we learned and the places in which we grew.
Just one year ago we blew horns and whistles past the auditorium which hosted our choral and band concerts, our plays and musicals, and occasional yet memorable lip-synch contests.
Just one year ago we passed the south gym where we learned to climb ropes and hit our plastic floor hockey sticks against the well-worn wooden floor boards.
Just one year ago we thought it was goodbye for now, but for certain parts of the school, it was goodbye forever.
On April 17, a fire erupted in the auditorium and south gym of Wilmington Friends School.
The areas suffered severe water and heat damage. The grand piano that was once played before families and friends now sits damp in water. The props, costumes, and sets for the Upper School play burned to a crisp.
Wilmington Friends School spokesperson Tracey Quillen Carney said that once the fire was under control, the first priority was to determine when the middle and upper school would be reopened.
Another concern for many was the annual Upper School play, scheduled to be performed just ten days after the fire.
Despite the circumstances, students did not fear that Arsenic and Old Lace would be canceled.
Cast member and senior Richard Monari said, “I didn’t think for one second that they would cancel it – we’re Friends!”
Monari said that he had faith that other venues in the community would offer to host the show.
Friends School indeed received tremendous support and sympathy and the offer of help from many different quarters.
Head of Upper School Bryan Garman said that he received a phone call from Salesianum within ten minutes of the fire on his cell phone.
Salesianum generously offered to host the Upper School drama on the evenings of April 27th and April 28th.
Wilmington Friend was overcome with appreciation for those who had extended their sympathy and support.
Upper School Choir Director, Margaret Butterfield said she “was overwhelmed with support both personally and professionally.”
Butterfield said that she received a message from the drama teacher at Tower Hill telling her that her students wanted to help rebuild sets.
While a year ago my classmates and I mischievously brought our noise parade to Tower Hill’s campus in the spirit of rivalry and competition, after the tragedy at Friends, any feelings of competition immediately transformed into those of collaboration.
“The cause is unfortunate, but it’s a unique opportunity to make connections with the larger community,” said Butterfield.
The community gathered at a reception on Friday the 27th for an Opening Night reception at the Salesianum Library. The invitation was extended to the firefighters who responded to the fire.
A poster-board lay at the entrance to the library recognizing and thanking all who had helped Friends. The list was seemingly endless.
I attended the reception with a former classmate, and although we were in an unfamiliar place, we were overcome with friendly and welcoming faces. The aura of Friends School pervaded the library, spreading through the halls and down to the auditorium.
The show began with recognition of the play’s directors, Don Morton and Todd Tyler.
That was followed by a moment of silence to recognize the firefighters who had risked their lives and successfully contained the fire that Tuesday.
“I’ve missed this,” my friend whispered to me. I had missed it too. Not just the Quaker practice of a moment of silence, but the feeling of warm energy that surrounded us in the spacious auditorium.
Despite the devastating fire, the talent survived and the spirit prevailed. Arsenic and Old Lace drew the largest house in Friends School history, proving to all, that the show will go on.
Parthena Moisiadis is a 2011 graduate of Wilmington Friends School and a student at the University of Pittsburgh studying English Writing and Communication.