Caussey's Corner

Caussey’s Corner: Safe from the Storm When the Lights Went Out

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The front moved in quickly. Winds would reach a hundred miles per hour before the storm would pass. Thousands of trees would be broken or uprooted. Roofs were damaged and debris filled residential streets, while power to nearly 400,000 customers would be lost for several days.

The storm hit just as my 7 p.m. American History class at Mountain View College started. We lost all power in seconds. Only a small amount of emergency power provided enough light for personnel in the building to move to the basement. The wind blew the rain horizontally, impacting the windows and causing them to shudder and appear to bend from the tempest.

Scores of other classes had sought refuge in the basement. My 30 or so students huddled together under a mellowing light and reviewed for the final exam to be given the following week. Even during the storm, students continued to come to school, trying to find our class among the hordes huddled in the basement. Many would arrive late, dripping wet, but came anyway because they were enrolled in my American History 1302 class that followed the 1301 history class.

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The lights never came back on that night, and wouldn’t until sometime later on the second day. But the class sat there for some time as the other class joined them. We didn’t discuss much history, but we talked a lot about our dreams, hopes and futures. Finally, after much coaxing, I shared the brownies that two of the students had brought me.

Caussey's Corner: Safe from the Storm When the Lights Went Out

Photo: @Lightman via Twenty20

The students got closer and closer with each lightning strike and roll of thunder. Even after we were told we could move upstairs, there was a reluctance to leave. They asked all kinds of personal questions of me. They, in turn, wanted to tell me about themselves. We talked of our fears, failures, and the joys we took for granted.

Their faces were eager to share the secrets of their hearts and to reap assurance that all was going to be well. Their attention reflected their desire to learn, and showed how much the college meant to them. Some were sad because this was their last history class while others spoke with enthusiasm because they would be returning to take their next history class in the fall.

One student walked up the stairs with me after I dismissed the classes for the evening. She asked if she could just talk to me a while. We sat on the sofa on the main floor for some time as she explained how important this class had been to her. How it didn’t matter how bad the weather was, she still wanted to come to class. She talked and I listened.

Then we were joined by other students, many not members of my classes. Sometimes I would speak and they would listen, then someone else would speak and we all listened or all talked at once. But there were also times when no one spoke. We all just rested there, silently gathering the collective strength that comes from sharing an experience that may stay with us for the rest of our lives. Sometime a little later I slipped away and went to the far side of the building to sit with a colleague. Occasionally a student would drop by to ask questions about the class.

Caussey's Corner: Safe from the Storm When the Lights Went Out

Photo: @jantanaduncan via Twenty20

Arriving home later, I found a house with no power. The next day at the middle school where I teach, there was no electricity as well. It would take several more days until power could be restored to the entire city.

I went home that night filled with a new sense of purpose. With kids like I have in my classes, I felt confident that America did have a hope for a bright future ahead.

I gathered several candles in my bedroom and continued reading a novel by Daniel Silva titled “The Messenger.” The book tells the story of a sect of people who hope to bring about the demise of our country through death and destruction. The softness of the candlelight reflecting off the pages added eerie warmth to my reading.

When I concluded the book, I thought about how humans can be so inhumane to each other. Then I thought of my students and the eagerness they had for learning, and the wonderful possibility that each held within himself.  I was blessed for being a kind of conduit to help them understand the past in order for them to create a better future. Then they could become the harbingers of knowledge for their children, just as a high school history teacher had done for me so long ago.

Durhl Caussey is a columnist who writes for TexasHillCountry.com. He may be reached at this outlet or at [email protected].