Published: Aug 12, 2009 11:47 AM
Modified: Aug 12, 2009 11:47 AM
It's always interesting to see how your life unfolds and how places and events intersect along the timeline. In this case mine involves the Durham School of the Arts, one of the downtown magnet schools located a stone's throw from my workplace at Brightleaf Square, and my former high school, Stuyvesant, one of the specialized public schools in New York City (I was in the class of 1981).
The author of "Angela's Ashes," Frank McCourt, passed away July 19, and it hit me hard. I was one of his students when he taught at Stuyvesant; he was every bit the same, wry storyteller with the delightful Irish brogue in the classroom, and he charmed all who sat before him to learn.
I last saw Frank in January 2000. I went to purchase a copy of the just-released tome "'Tis" at The Regulator Bookshop on Ninth Street. At the counter I mentioned that I was a former student of Frank's, I was unexpectedly asked to introduce him at a local fundraiser that was going to be held at DSA; he was coming to the Bull City to do a reading and give a talk about his teaching years. Needless to say I said yes to doing the intro, then fretted about what to say in front of a packed auditorium of the now-famous author's fans. (You can read my introduction and see photos at bit.ly/o9hs1
It was great to see him; I went backstage before he went on, and of course he didn't recognize me from the last time I saw him (my 10-year reunion), but I brought my trusty '81 Indicator yearbook, and he recognized me in that context. He was mobbed like a celebrity after the event, but that was no surprise -- everyone wanted to be in Frank's class back in the day. Goodbye, Frank.
But that was not the last time Stuyvesant would intersect with the Durham School of the Arts. Recently I was contacted by one of my former neighbors in Old West Durham, Doug Graves, the chair of the Performing Arts Department at DSA. This fall he is directing a production of "With Their Eyes: September 11th, The View From A High School At Ground Zero." It is a series of monologues written by Stuyvesant students who were witnesses to that terrible day. The school (now located in the Wall Street area) was used as a makeshift trauma and logistics hub in the aftermath of the carnage. In his e-mail Doug said:
"As I begin to unfold this piece with my students, next year, it would be nice to have some real world connections to NYC -- Stuyvesant -- 9/11/01, etc. I was wondering if you might be willing to come in and speak to my cast."
It's hard to believe that we are nearly 10 years on the other side of 9/11/01 -- when discussing this event, many of my students have no real-time memory of it, just what they have read in textbooks, heard from parents, seen pictures of, etc. It will be challenging to make it real for them through the words of these former Stuyvesant High School students, custodians, administrators and parents.
If they don't have direct memory of 9/11, they certainly have no idea about the long-ago period when I attended the 15th Street Stuy and what life was like in New York then. I look forward to meeting with the DSA cast to share some Stuy stories with them.
Pam Spaulding is the creator of the political blog Pam's House Blend. Write to her at email@example.com
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