Two years ago today, this is the scene I spent hours photographing. Luckily, my work has improved since then, however, I did win a 2014 Virginia Press Association Award for Best Breaking News photo in a non-daily paper for one of my shots.
Having said that, this was the final straw that broke the camel’s back of Colonial Beach Elementary School on Douglas Avenue here in town.
Not long after the fire began, or more correctly was started by four young men who grew up here in town, I was called by my best friend, Tracey. I raised to the site and spent all night and most of the day taking thousands of pictures as the building burned.
Firefighters from 16 agencies responded to the fire from all over Virginia and Maryland. A pump boat from Maryland pumped water to the crews who were trying to control the blaze.
For hours and hours I watched more than 100-year-old building burn. A building that meant so much to this town, to me, to all the people who grew up here, was being destroyed before our eyes.
As daylight dawned, more and more local people showed up to watch the fire. Former students, teachers, people who had no connection to the school, even.
The worst moment for me was watching one retired coach, PE teacher, and Athletic Director stand on the blacktop facing the building that he had spent so many years teaching in. You could see the grief of the loss of the building weigh on him, immediately.
In October of 2015 the building was completely demolished, all of the brick building and the gymnasium attached to it. I was there for that, for days on end, taking thousands of pictures of the demolition.
Again, I watched as so many people showed up to say goodbye to Colonial Beach Elementary School as the bricks came down and the sight line to the river was cleared.
While my heart was torn in two while I watched it come down, it was even worse to see former teachers, students, friends, classmates stand there and see all the memories come tumbling down.