On August 16, our daughter’s number on the high school waiting list opened.
On August 17, she began attending Tulsa School of Arts and Sciences as a freshman.
On September 5, the school building was in flames, and we were riveted to the TV as we saw it burn.
My experience with the school and the building is tertiary, secondary at best. I was not among the parents who moved the school from an old office building into this new-to-them space in a leafy Tulsa neighborhood. We did not paint the biology room or carry in books and computers and tools. I’m just a mom who wants her kid to have as good a high school experience as possible.
Despite my short and peripheral experience with the school, I am astounded by how quickly my own child has been absorbed into the community that is TSAS.
At a meeting about the future of the school, I sat with chills as I heard that $20,000 had been donated in the week since the fire. All from private individuals. A donor had pledged a dollar for dollar donation of almost 100 large. Every member of the faculty and staff had been granted a $1,000 gift to replace personal classroom items.
Still. In the quiet moments, the director of the school reminded us that “everyone lost something, no matter how involved,” in TSAS. He lost his graduate degree diplomas. Another teacher lost a collection she had spent years curating. Artwork, homework, stuff jammed in lockers. He told us that years ago, TSAS settled on a phoenix as their emblem and “We are TSAS,” as their slogan. He said that the important part of the phoenix story is not the ashes, not the fire, not the mourning, but the thing that emerges from the flames.
The principal rose to the podium with a smile on her face, biting back her tears. She gave us the good news: Every musical instrument was salvaged. Nearly every piece of cooking equipment was saved. And every student is safe today. She told us about the donations, about the challenges, about how the students had proven the value of community. TSAS added “We Will Rise,” to their slogan.
I ran into a friend at the end of the meeting. Her sophomore son was with her, and he hovered solicitously while she struggled not to cry. She hugged me, and my tertiary, secondary, peripheral part in the community faded.
In the days since the fire, many of you have contributed to this building which has absolutely no emotional or physical connection to your life. I have shown my daughter the emails you have sent, pledging money, promising care packages, sending your prayers. So many of you have asked, and continued to ask, how things are after the fire.
This, too, illustrates what I have long believed. There is good in the world. People do some of the best things. I want to thank you for caring about my kid, even though I’ve not met many of you. Thank you for praying, for sending money, sheafs of paper and thoughts. Thank you for being the best in the world.