I went to work with a dark cloud looming over me. I wanted to talk to someone but I couldn’t. I was tired and still shaken from the forthcoming news. What could I do it? I sent an email to the K-List asking for prayers and support. I sent an email to all Quigley grads that I knew asking for their prayers. What more could I do?
Suddenly, I got a random call from Mike Dawes, a classmate of mine who was in the military. He proceeded to ask if I was ok and everything else was okay. He then followed it with, “Do you have an exit plan?” OH SHIT! Of all the people I sent the email to, I had to send it to him. Always prepared, he assumed the worse and started to ramble off scenarios for me to play.
“Dawes! Dawes! It’s going to be ok.” After 5 minutes of convincing him, he finally got the message of what was forthcoming. Phew, disaster averted. Then Marty appeared in my office saying, “I just got the most encrypted message from Michael Dawes. He’s making me nervous John.” SHIT! Here we go again.
After convincing Marty that everything was going to be okay and I just was asking for prayers, he smiled and hugged me. It was going to be a long and hard day. I was told that the council will be voting on the closing of Quigley at around 1. Following which, part of the council would come here to announce it. As for this morning, the board members were already being called and told. There was no hope left. Quigley is closing.
The day proceeded as normal until the end of 8th period when the bell rang. There was an announcement over the PA asking for all students, faculty and staff to report to the chapel. I was in the faculty lounge with Fr. Walsh, Shannon and a few other teachers who I cannot recall. Someone said, “Did the Cardinal die?” I shook my head while holding back tears. As we started to leave the lounge, my eyes met Gerald Walsh’s. He was crying. I began to cry too. We grabbed tissues and proceed to the chapel in silence.
I sat in the back where I normally sit. In front of me sat 2 of the 3 stooges as I called them. They saw tears in my eyes and began to get unnerved. I couldn’t help it, I needed to be strong for the kids, but even I was shaken beyond control. Then, the moment that we all dread happened.
Bishop Kane and Fr. Canary stood at the pulpit looking upon the sea of young seminarians. With that, they sadly informed us that at the end of the school year, Quigley would be closing.
Danny turned around and looked at me asking if it was true. I just sobbed. All the priests were crying too. As for the teachers, none of them new beforehand. They found out the same moment as the kids. As the kids turned to their teacher for support and comfort, you could tell that they were broken as the kids. Shannon began to tear, this would be her second school closing. Dave, Mr. G as the kids call him, who was untouchable could not hold back either. It happened to him before and now once again. Dr. Napiwocki was shaking; it’s as if it was happening all over again like Weber. Liz was taken for a shock, first it was Quigley South and Archbishop Quigley. Mary McGann tears kept on following as she tried to find answers. Answers that we all were looking for. I looked back at Danny, he began to cry. It was then that my pain for myself became the pain for these poor kids. I gave Danny my tissues; he needed it more than I.
We were all dismissed from the chapel. The kids were in turmoil. Some just ran home and never stopped until they were safe in their parents arms. Others called. But most of them stood together, lost and abandoned; most if not all were tearing or cry.
The facutly and staff was summoned to the auditorium where we were then told the final details. The details didn’t matter; we were all crying and looking to each other for support. We felt as lost as the kids were.
Many teachers went home right away, seeking shelter and comfort away from our second hom that was taken from us this day. As I headed to my office to leave, I saw the 3 stooges sitting at my doorsteps: Danny, Joey and Billy. They needed the comfort and reassurance more than I do. I told them to grab their jackets and go for a walk.
As we walked outside, no sooner than 30 minutes after the announcement, news vans from every television station was lined outside of the school, along with representatives from all major newspaper of Chicago. I sighed and told the boys to head east to the lake.
We sat in a row on the edge with our feet dangling just a few feet above the waters of Lake Michigan as we looked out onto the lake waters. It was windy and cold with the grey sky casting over us; it best reflected how we all felt. We all sat there as students who lost his home; his mother.
The boys asked if it was okay if they could smoke. I let them. They were shaken up as it was, they needed to be reassured and calmed. It was then when I realized that I was no longer just their teacher, I became their mentor. I vowed to make sure that these young men and all the others at Quigley, will be formed into the best that they could before the year is over. I may not see these boys graduate, but I will see that they become men when the year is over.
We sat there and talked, shared memories and tears. They finished their cigarette, much to their displeasure. I wasn’t going to let them have another one; I was still their teacher. We headed back to the home that was taken from us…but not yet. It’s still ours for the time being. It was ours. Ours and we will make it the best year ever, because goodbyes are too hard to say to those who you love. And we loved Quigley. All of us, past, present and future. We all did. We loved Quigley and we didn’t want to say goodbye. Because we loved our mother.
(to be continued…)