Thursday, March 20, 2014

Back in Time - Graduation Blessing

Marilyn, Evelyn, Brenda, Aunt Marie, Mom
Brenda's graduation
Aurora, CO
My niece, Brenda graduated from Gateway High School in 1983. Her graduation was memorable because of a near tragedy - she was very lucky; some of her classmates were not.

Because Gateway did not have a football field, the commencement was held on an neighboring high school's (Hinkley High) football field. Over 600 graduates' chairs were arranged on the field, and the gathering crowd of family and friends waited in the bleachers for the appointed starting time. The day was cloudless, and the sun beat down mercilessly on the anxious crowd.

No one knew why the ceremony was delayed for what seemed like hours. None of us knew what happened in the gymnasium during the long delay. None of us knew the terror that the graduates were experiencing as we grumbled about the scorching sun.

Finally, a school official came out and asked specific parents to go into the building. The crowd was told there had been an accident and several graduates were injured. Brenda's name was not among the injured, and the relief we felt was visible, but we still did not know what happened.

After an even longer delay, the ceremony proceeded, and my heart broke as the students paraded in front of the bleachers: some students with bandaged legs were carried by their classmates; others walked with the aid of crutches. Still, the audience still did know what had transpired. When Brenda saw us in the crowd, she waved, and tears caught in my throat: she was okay.

It was an emotional graduation. All of the students were extremely fortunate -- even the injured ones.

Earlier, in the gymnasium, the students were arranged in the bleachers alphabetically in preparation for exiting the building and parading to the waiting chairs on the football field.

Someone (I don't know if officials ever discovered who) pushed the button to collapse the bleachers. As the bleachers began folding into the wall for storage from the floor level, step by step, the 600+ students had to jump from increasing heights to avoid being crushed. Some students broke legs, sprained ankles, knees, etc.

Brenda who was sitting about a 1/3 up from the floor said, "The bleachers went fast! Students were jumping off and piling up on the floor. We had to move quickly, even when we were on the floor, so others could jump off."

The shoes Brenda was wearing that day, tell the story in their own way. The wooden arch of her left shoe cracked in half when she jumped: it is fortunate that Brenda did not break her leg and/or her ankle from the impact.

You will note in the top photo that Brenda is barefoot. She walked from the gymnasium clutching her shoes.

Brenda was blessed to escape injury that day. Personally, I think it was the best graduation gift she could have been given.


  1. Oh my goodness, that would be a graduation that was never forgotten for sure. I'm glad Brenda was fine and that no one was very seriously injured.

  2. Hard to imagine that someone would do that...wished they would have found out who and prosecuted them. Glad you Brenda was okay.

  3. Wow! It must have been hard to continue on with the graduation. Even those injured must have been shook up by the event.

  4. Kids have been doing these "pranks" forever and they never seem to realize what may seem "funny" at time, has devastating effects on others.

    I am so glad Brenda was able to graduate with injury only to her shoe. :-( What a sad memory for all those students though on what should have been a joyous occasion.

  5. Oh my! That is such a scary situation. My high school also had bleachers that moved like that for storage and it didn't take long for them to completely fold away. Certainly made graduation day memorable, but not necessarily a good memory.

  6. What a story …. a prank can turn deadly. So sad . When my kids were that age I really thought about forgiving kids who do such silly things…. kids just don't have the brain growth and perspective of adults. >>>>
    So glad she was okay!

  7. What a sad, horrible and amazing story! You had a lot to be thankful for that day. I am always amazed at the things people will do for "fun" and I wonder what goes through their minds in the aftermath. On second thought I don't want to know!

  8. Wow! That must have been a sad lesson in consequences for someone. So glad your niece was OK, but it certainly must have put a damper on the occasion.

  9. What an experience! Pretty horrifying on graduation day!! Your picture certainly has quite a story to go with it.

  10. Oh my goodness, that will forever stick out in her memory. It must have been really scary:(

  11. What a tale! I'm so glad only Brenda's shoe was damaged. What a horrible thing on what should have been a very happy day!

  12. I love the pooffy sleeves, the pastels, and the ruffles. I love, love that picture. I appreciate how you photos are a look back in time. So many memories.


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