Monday, October 13, 2014


Just as we were convening for our afternoon class a couple of Tuesday's back, a fire broke out at a local metal processing plant just down the hill from our school. We heard sirens, of course, but those are pretty commonplace sounds in the city, so it wasn't until parents who had already dropped their kids off at school began returning to tell us, "There's a big fire in Fremont," that we took notice.

Standing on the sidewalk in front of the Fremont Baptist Church where we're located, we could see a huge, black tower of smoke that appeared to be coming from just across the street. We stood there for a time, all of us, kids, parents and siblings, speculating. Yuri's dad Bill suggested we might get a better view from the third story of the building so we migrated together up the stairs into a part of the church most of us had never been before where we could get a better idea of what was burning, even catching a glimpse of the flames.

Lost in the commotion was the fact that we had, only moments before the excitement started, introduced one of our brand new, super tough, waterproof, shockproof, freeze proof digital cameras to the kids. Unbeknownst to any of us, one of the kids -- I don't know who -- was carrying the camera throughout our adventure, snapping the shots illustrating this post, documenting our adventure together as a community.

Most of us had never been in these hallways before, which can seem a bit maze-like.

As it turned out, it was a fire of the 5-alarm variety, involving a total of 30 fire vehicles and over 100 firefighters, including our friends at the local Station #9.

After a time, we decided to try to go about our day, returning to the classroom and our regular activities. As we played, parents used their phones to update us on the situation, letting us know when the fire was out. Just before it was time to go outdoors, I slipped away and jogged down the hill to check out the scene, speaking with a police officer and one of the firefighters who happened to be standing on the public side of the caution tape, both of whom felt it would be a sort of cruelty to not bring a class of local preschoolers for a quick tour of the dramatic scene. 

Back at the school, the parent-teachers agreed, so we took an impromptu field trip, where we stood in awe of the display of public servants at work. Not only that, but as we paused at the feet of our neighborhood's Soviet-era statue of Vladimir Lenin, one of the firefighters, in full gear, came over to talk with us, filling us in and answering questions, before sending us on our way because "smoke is poisonous." There wasn't any smoke evident, but it seemed like a good idea.

Later, after the kids went home, I discovered these photos and their amazing documentation of our dramatic afternoon.

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forrest said...

You never found out who the budding photojournalist is? I love how the future is literally looking up!

Anonymous said...

Working in public schools, people tell me ALL THE TIME what kids aren't capable of, and it kills me. They have this list of ideas kids can't grasp and creations kids can't make...when really it's because adults have done such a bad job of communicating the important points or setting insane expectations.

If you give kids a little independence, if you give them the camera and the knowledge and let them loose, they do something amazing almost without fail.

Mitzi said...

I have to agree, it would be cruel to deny the children a chance to see the action if it's safe enough to do so! What a wonderful adventure!

Anonymous said...

Do you really have a neighbourhood Lenin?

Teacher Tom said...

We do have a neighborhood Lenin and it's a very nice example of that style of art. We decorate it with lights for the holidays.