Each year, seniors at Shattuck-St. Mary’s School deliver a speech to their peers on a topic of their choosing in the Newhall Auditorium. Often equal parts clever and moving, emotional and personal, each speech offers a glimpse into the lives, experiences, struggles, and triumphs of SSM seniors.
Throughout the 2017-18 school year, we will share these speeches with the SSM community and hope that you enjoy the humor, wisdom, and powerful reflections conveyed by our senior students.
“Everything happens for a reason. I have always believed this, but I never truly experienced it until five years ago. On July 26, 2012, at 2:32 a.m., I woke to my mom screaming my name. The voice pierced my ears as my brothers and I shot out of bed and began stumbling up the stairs. As I approached the top of the stairs, I saw a glare of orange from the corner of my eye. What I thought was the impossible was actually happening. My house was on fire.
“As the flames burst through the windows, breaking glass and climbing towards the ceiling, I turned the corner and ran for the door. When I got outside and turned around, there was a wall of smoke that I could not see through. My brother and I stood in only our pajamas, watching as my dad run back in to call for my mom. What seemed like hours was only seconds before both of my parents came sprinting out of my house.
“I don’t usually like to talk about that day much, but I will talk about what followed. My house was rebuilt, my siblings were safe, and my family survived.
“Before that day, I used to live a bubble where I would hear horrific news stories of houses burning, whole families being lost in car crashes, or entire towns being hit by hurricanes. I’d think about how tragic that must be, but I’d also say to myself, “That will never happen to me.” When my day came, something I’d only ever heard on the news was now actually happening to my family and me. We were the top story the next morning in the newspaper and on the radio. The thought of being untouchable all my life was gone, and my whole outlook on life changed within minutes.
“This experience taught me something valuable: appreciate the little things because in an instant they could be gone. Appreciate that feeling of hysterical laughter bellowing from the pit of your stomach so much that your stomach hurts. The feeling of Sunday night when your favorite dorm parents bake brownies. Or even the grind after a hard, tough skate where every muscle in your body aches. Or the crying for the 6th time in a day during finals week with your friend while you both order out for the 3rd time that week. Appreciate all of it because one day you’ll be sitting in your college dorm wondering where this time went. Don’t take those moments for granted. Don’t wait till it is almost too late to appreciate all the little, familiar things.
“Most of all, take the time you have to make sure the people in your life know that you care. That night five years ago, I could have lost everyone I care about. I believe everything happens for a reason. That fire, although frightening and dangerous, made me realize that I need to appreciate life and the people I am lucky enough to share it with. Thank you.”