This is what I told the children.
night, when I was in prep – I was six years old then – my family woke up.
were fire engines in our street and their sirens were very loud.
We all wondered what was happening, and hoped no one was hurt anywhere.
the morning, after my dad went to work, my mum and I walked down to the school… and it wasn’t the way it used to be at all.
was still smoke in the air, and the ground was covered with ashes, and pieces of
books, and rulers that were half burned away. There were burnt hats. There were
burnt chairs. There was even someone’s teddy bear.
classrooms, where the new school is now, were a dreadful mess.
looked up (although I don’t know if that was because I was small or because
what I was looking at was up high) and saw the library. I saw a beanbag, burnt,
hanging half-way out of a window. It had burst open and melted polystyrene beads
were stuck to it, and to the wall, and to the ground underneath it.
lot of other people were there too. Some were talking quietly, and some were
crying softly, but most people were just walking around, looking, picking things
up out of the mess all over the ground and putting them down again.
one could believe what had happened.
found out later that a man who had an illness in his mind had lit the fire on
purpose. He didn’t want to make people sad. He didn’t want to destroy
was just because he liked to see things burn up, and because he wanted people to
see him help the firemen.
hope that he was able to get better so he didn’t make anyone else as unhappy
as he made all the people at Ruskin Park.
one went to school at Ruskin for a long while.
children went to other schools by bus every day. The bus picked them up at the
school gates and brought them home at the end of the day.
classrooms were set up on the oval, from where the equipment is now to about
half way across. The portables were different from the classrooms which had been
burnt. They had carpets, and their outsides were made of metal. If one friend
stood outside at one end of a portable with their ear against the wall, and
another friend stood at the other and tapped the wall with a tiny stone, it made
the most amazing sound – a bit like the blasters in Star Wars.
soon, the new buildings were started. They were very different from the way the
school used to look – the whole school had the same pebbly outside then as the
old building does now – but it didn’t take us long to get used to it.
you know why Ruskin Park’s Symbol is the Phoenix?
Phoenix is a magical bird in a story. It gets burned up in a fire… and when
the fire goes out, there, in the middle of the ashes, is a new baby phoenix.
Park is like that.
though it burned away in a terrible fire, it was able to start again as a
bright, clean, friendly school.