Closing the door on 2004

The final moments of their lives as South Whidbey High School Falcons were scheduled to begin at noon Saturday. It was time for the class of 2004 to shine, albeit in a pitch black Erickson Gymnasium.

The power failed moments before graduates were to enter a gym filled with family, friends and community members, bringing the pomp and circumstance to a halt. The problem was solved with the swift arrival of fire department vehicles and a giant generator. This shining moment was destined to be lit by high intensity rescue lights.

While fire crew and teachers rigged power cords and positioned lighting, graduates kicked off their shoes, took off their caps and gowns and relaxed.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., vice principal Eric Nerison told seniors the ceremony was a “go,” calling the situation “a little strange and a little unique — kind of like this class.”

The crowd roared with applause when the first grad entered — finally, the culminating moments for proud parent’s babies had begun.

Faculty Choice speaker, Megan Roosen-Runge, talked about the circus that is high school, and the ring leaders that have been their teachers. She compared their lives — past, present and for the eternal future — to living on a trapeze. It is in transition that they earn their strengths and see their true colors, she said.

Class Choice speaker Paul Weber thought high school had been a wild ride down river where each student faced the rapids in their own way. He shared a laundry list of teachers whose daily efforts to ingrain knowledge in young minds was not in vain. He let teachers know that their care and expectations weren’t unwarranted. He told some their classes and teaching abilities were under rated. He let them know they have 100 or so more friends than they thought.

After giving this thanks, Wayward Sister, the singing trio of Ann Bakeman, Colleen Johnson, and Stephanie Metz, performed the Green Day Song “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” accompanied by Roy Ishii, Ben Muncey-Gordon, Natalie Schmidt and Phil Schorr. The song, by a band famous for their thrashy, trashy punk lyrics — couldn’t encapsulate high school better.

The five valedictorians shared the five best qualities of their class — tenacity, altruism, courage, optimism and potential. They told their class “It’s not the falling people remember, it’s how you pick yourself up,” and that “it’s not the years in your life that count, but instead how you live that life.”

As each item on the program received a check mark of completion, chests and enthusiasm rose as a collective breath was held.

Students were called to the podium with their adolescence guised in the form of their full given name: Alycia Brandy Lamb, Chelsea Belle Miller, Elizabeth Anne Norris... Nathan Gabriel Rusch... one by one they stepped forward.

With diplomas in hand, class president Jennifer Pan brought her classmates full circle when she showed the audience how long they’d been together; since primary school, intermediate school, middle school and now high school.

“We have been each others best friends, confidants, and sometimes biggest critics,” she said.

Over an hour after the ceremony began, a move of the tassel and a cap toss later, the door was closed on the class of 2004.

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