In 2001, my highschool tragically lost two of my classmates on a Duke of Edinburgh hike at Crosslands. The group encountered a violent storm mid-hike and was forced to set up an emergency campsite in a nearby clearing. The wind grew strong and knocked over a tree which fell on top of one of the tents, crushing both girls who were sheltering inside and killing them instantly. I was at an orphanage in Thailand at the time, building dormitories and singing hymns with some Christian missionaries. I checked my email one night when we went into town and saw a note from one of my friends back home:
“Samantha and Tara died on duke of ed. I twisted my ankle. We got to stay home from school and eat tim tams. You’re gonna miss the funerals.”
I dealt with this in my usual way: almost entirely physically. I went to bed for three days and didn’t eat or shower or speak to anybody. After this, I was very sick for a week, and then by the time we got to Chiang Mai, I was somewhat okay.
When I returned to Sydney, most of the formalities were over. However, the faculty wanted to do something special to honour the memory of Samantha and Tara. During class one morning, my English teacher put out the call for ideas.
“What can we do that is special and will carry on here at the school, even after you guys have all graduated?” he asked.
“We could name one of the buildings after the girls,” one student suggested.
“We certainly could,” the teacher agreed, “Any more ideas?”
I raised my hand. “We could plant a tree? Like, in memory. One with strong roots, obviously…”
They went with the building idea.