Up In Smoke

The Little Prince’s school burned down on Sunday.

I heard the news when I took the Prince to play with one of his friends; D’s mother pulled me aside. She showed me a cell phone photo of a wall of flames. I ran errands afterward, and sure enough, I could see a column of smoke from the bank drive-through. I parked on a quiet residential street and slipped through the pass-through, a piece of pavement I’ve run numerous times with Miss B, walked through with the Prince and the Princess, part of my daily life. Now it was cordoned off at the far end with yellow tape. FIRE SCENE DO NOT CROSS.

I peered through the tape, and imagine my jaw dropping with shock. I’d initially thought that maybe the reports were exaggerated. If anything, they hadn’t been bad enough.

The school is gone. The footage is sobering.

The portables are still there, and the playground. Everything else is just gone. The walls of the gym/lunchroom, where I’ve sat and chatted with the Little Prince and his classmates and lined up with them before going out to recess, are still standing, but inside…there were flames shooting out of the roof. All the classrooms are leveled. All of them. The library’s gone. The fishtank full of young salmon the Little Prince’s class was going to release when they were big enough? The art and their stories, the Ikea furniture each teacher bought with their own money and put together, painstakingly, to make the classrooms home? All gone. The place is burned to the ground.

The first call was at 3AM-ish this morning. When I stood across the street to take pictures at 3pm this afternoon, they were still soaking the ruins with hoses to put out hot spots.

Now I’m going to tell you why I’m going to ask you to donate if you can.

A couple of years ago, during the divorce, the Little Prince stayed home from school one day. I climbed on the treadmill to do my morning run, and as a result, I didn’t hear when the school called me. I’d called into the attendance line to let them know he wouldn’t be in, but one of the little girls on his bus swore she’d seen him, but he wasn’t in class. School started at 8:20; by then I’d already been on the treadmill for ten minutes.

At 8:25, the Selkie called me. She was listed at the school as our emergency contact; I saw the call by chance and picked up. “What’s up?”

“Where’s *Little Prince’s name*?”

“He’s in his bedroom. Why?”

“Are you sure? The school just called me. They said they couldn’t reach you.”

My jaw dropped. I scrambled out of the sunroom and down the hall, and saw my baby sitting on his bed, coloring. “I’m looking at him right now. He’s okay. I’ll call the school and let them know.”

I figured the heart attack was about over, and I dialed the school. I got Miz Sandy, one of the office staff. (She’s the one who hand-carried his boundary exception over to the district office and told them leave this kid with us!) “*The Little Prince* is right here, you don’t need to worry–” The doorbell rang. “Someone’s at the door, hang on–”

“It’s Mrs Hite,” Miz Sandy said.

“The principal?” I tore the door open, and the Little Prince had twigged that something was up, so he followed me. And the principal and I stared at each other for a moment before I burst into tears of shock and relief.

Yes, friends and neighbors, they had to make absolutely sure that he was safe, so the principal got in her car and drove over. I’d missed their two calls before the Selkie called me, and I couldn’t apologize enough. But there was the hugest, sunniest smile on the principal’s face.

“This is the best ending possible,” she said. “I just had to know he was OK.”

This is the kind of school Crestline is, where on the strength of one child saying “No, I saw him on the bus” the principal goes out to either find the kid or talk to the parent, less than ten minutes after school starts that day. This is the school where the office staff knows every student’s name and the teachers pour their souls–and most of their paychecks–into every kid in every class, not just their own. This is the school where any adult that’s not known on sight AND carrying a red volunteer badge or sticker is clustered by very polite but inflexible staff and volunteers, to be escorted to the office to sign in. It’s the school a ten-year-old boy loves so much he’s excited on Sunday night because Monday means he can go back. The place was held together by the steady commitment of teachers and office staff, who made it work with spit and baling wire some days, and volunteers who pitched in where they could even after their kids went on to other schools.

This is the school where nobody goes home until all the kids are accounted for at the end of the day.

This is what a school should be. Please, if you have a little extra, see if you can possibly make a donation. Even five bucks would help. The place is absolutely leveled. School supplies, the entire library, furniture, walls, it is all gone. The supplies volunteers put together for kids whose families couldn’t afford it: gone. Everything. Just up in smoke.

The district’s Facebook page is here. Here’s the latest I have on how to donate:

For those wanting to help – monetary donations can be made to the Evergreen School District Foundation for Crestline Elementary School. For more information, contact the district’s Community Relations office during normal business hours at 360.604.4088.

The Evergreen School District Foundation website is here; they have a Donate button, though they haven’t set up the fund for Crestline through it as of this writing. (I’ll check again in a bit; if you use the donate button, you could give them a call and let them know it’s for Crestline.) with a drop-down menu where you can donate to Crestline. Jaffey Designs is doing a T-shirt fundraiser too; if you’re in the Portland/Vancouver area, some of the local Burgervilles are taking donations. I’ll update as soon as I know more. Please, if you have it to spare, see if you can throw it Crestline’s way?

  • Laura

    Oh Lili, this is so, so sad. It sounds like an amazing environment that anyone would want their child to learn and grow in. So many physical memories that will never be recovered. Prayers for all those that need the help.

  • Tina R.

    If you click the donate button on the district foundation page Crestline Elementary is an option in the drop-down box. So sorry to hear about this. 🙁

  • Lili

    Thanks for letting me know, Tina! I’ve updated the post.

    I took my morning run and went through the park behind the school. The ruins are still smoking. It’s so sad.

  • martianmoncrab

    I saw this on the 11pm news last night, and was hoping it wasnt his school, but I had already started a little bag of school supplies and thinking about getting a few books for the Library.

  • This is horrible, and I’m so, so sorry to hear it. I can’t donate myself, but I’m sharing on my Facebook page. One of my cousins and his family live in the Portland area and the company where he works is big on giving back to the community, so maybe they can help.

  • Serena

    I’m so sorry Lili, this is terrible. The school sounds wonderful and I hope it can be built back to the way it was.

  • D

    As for the library, it’s possible the charity Kids Need to Read may be able to help a little…

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us ‘0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Nina

    This is terrible–the school sounds wonderful, like the school my own daughter goes to, which I cherish and would never want to see something like this happen. I went and donated, and hope that recovery begins soon.

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  • Oh Lili, I am so very sorry. This literally brought tears to my eyes. My sons school is the exact same way. I honestly don’t know what I would do if his second home was destroyed like that. I hope and pray for the very best outcome. I hope that enough funds are raised to bring the school back even better than it was before.

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