...the night of the fire, discovered at 1 a.m. Because of a shortage of water, 180 feet of 1763 buildings, old living quarters of the family and three faculty members, were gone.
However, when dawn broke we realized that the school itself was unharmed. Dormitories, classrooms and kitchen were intact. What had gone was history and beauty, but only its material evidences.
We had a Chapel Service in the big room at the usual time. The Lamb was on a table near the piano, the candelabra and flowers on the piano. We had a piano but no hymn books, so we sang "The Vesper Hymn" and Thomson's "Alleluia." Then Mrs. Emmet spoke...
Fire - what does it mean? One of the four elements - strong - active. Heraclitus said it was the basic element - motion - everything flows - Panta Rei in Greek.
It is also said that fire cleanses.
Somehow this school always rises to an emergency as you have today - this big night and day - in so many ways. Chapel tonight, to bear witness to the fact that we carry on as susual or better than usual. I have been wondering why a fire on the Hill after 28 years. I have been wondering why all parts of this school that go back into history have gone up in smoke, but that the places that house the young of today were not threatened (or almost not). I do not believe that any event (even one so apparently disastrous) cannot be made to bear good fruit. What must we build from this event of today? What must we learn, all of us? My entire life or any material evidence of it has gone up in smoke. Could the 80 years be the cause of so much smoke?
I have often said that even at my age I look toward the futurea and that it is your doing, you people who have made it possible. Now I will have to prove it, somewhat bitterly, I must confess, for we are going on, building on, thinking. It is a great challenge. Forty years these buildings have stood in my care, housing so much that came from rich experience. Wgat cab we di biw/. Wgat can we vuild to balance that richness? It is too soon to tell, but not too soon to think of it. What can you give the School as rich as what you have lost today. and I am not spealing of matierla things - extraordinary as that picture is. It is the significance of those things. What can we subsistude now for what is not here materially - can we keep its significance - the culling of a long life's experience. Let us try.