I will never forget the night that I graduated the eighth grade. Not because of the ceremony in the gym, not because of the dance after the ceremony, not because of the pretty new dress and not because my friends gathered at my house before the festivities started for a Mary Kay make-up party to prepare.
The night of my eighth grade graduation there was an explosion in my town. A natural gas (I think?) pipeline ruptured and ignited. I remember standing on the outside deck of my house in my new pretty dress with the makeup on and my mom taking pictures, when we noticed that there was ash falling from the sky. I remember the carefully guarded fear in my mom's eyes as she rushed to the television to turn on the news because my dad was working (still does) in an oil refinery, and explosions in oil refineries were certain to be bad.
I don't remember too much about the ceremony (except that it was announced to the entire graduating class that I wanted to be a professional rock-climber, which is a career goal I had made up in a bout of silliness and knew that while I loved climbing, I could never live that life), and I don't remember much about the dance. I remember the ash falling from the sky and the feeling of uncertainty and fear.
We later learned that while no one that we knew personally was killed, three other boys were. One of the boys that was killed was the younger brother of a boy that was just a few years older than my friends and I, and the next year we were at the same High School as this older boy who had carried his badly burned younger brother out of the explosion site, only for the smaller boy to die the next day. It was whispered to me in the hall when the older brother passed that it was "his brother" that had died.
I remember later- much later- passing the explosion site and seeing the devastation and feeling chills. And to this day, whenever I hear the word "pipeline," a little shudder passes through me and I struggle to follow the conversation and not be transported back to that day and those times when fear and anger ruled my small, normally happy little town.
I will always remember the day of my Middle School graduation, June 10th. And perhaps someday I will be able to have a conversation about pipelines that doesn't result in the little shudder and temporary loss of focus. Keep your loved ones close, y'all. Time is precious.