Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Nearly 40 Years Ago...but never forgotten

This is an old photograph taken by an unknown someone, posted by a high school friend on Facebook. An ordinary photo perhaps; young students walking to the next class or gathered in groups socializing. Taken at St. Stephen's School west of Austin, likely in springtime based on the clothing and the show of skin, this shot has enormous significance to the students in attendance back in the early 1970's. The number of comments attached to this photograph on Facebook tells the story. Why?

I suspect (no, that's not true. I know.) the answer lies with the gorgeous young girl in the center of the scene above, the one whose long, thick hair falls over her right shoulder as she studies the papers in her hands. She's dressed in a popular outfit from that time; the Mexican embroidered blouse with the drawstring sleeves and a short skirt, likely also from Mexico. Her white Bandolino sandals remind me that we girls all had at least one pair, purchased at the Bandolino store on Guadalupe in Austin.

She's surrounded by others, all seemingly oblivious to the camera. All appear intent on what they are doing in the moment whether it be walking somewhere, reading, talking, or just thinking. Lost in reverie, even without cell phones, iPhones, or iPod player with headphones (fancy that). The comments on Facebook range from memories about the girl in the center of the photo to musings about the identity of the partially hidden students. Most have been identified based on some unique feature. The mystery girl off to the left in the polka dotted dress remains unknown although the owner of said dress is known. We all borrowed each others clothing to expand our wardrobe options back in the day. Sitting in profile on the rock wall is Kathryn wearing her clogs and holding a sack purse, her hair partially pulled back in clip (a style I envied and could never master with thick curly hair).

But why does the standing girl evoke such emotion and memories? Why are her former peers flooded with feelings for her and the school we were fortunate to attend?

I suspect it was 6 months or less after the black and white photo was taken that this beautiful young woman lost her life in a tragic car accident at the start of our senior year in high school. She was only 17. She and another classmate died near Kerrville, Texas on a weekend trip from school in September 1971. As their peers, most of us had never experienced the death of someone our own age. Shock, sadness, and the unfair, sudden loss of two of our own touched us deeply.

Years later Lauren's sister and mother funded the memorial courtyard shown above on the St. Stephen's campus. Had I known about this lovely tribute to my friend, I would have taken my own pictures when visiting the campus earlier this year.

Lauren C. and Stephanie R.; I will never forget you. I often wonder what you'd both be doing now at age 55; what would life have thrown your way and what would you have thrown back? I can honestly say that memories and thoughts stick like glue. Your short lives ended way too soon, leaving a hole in the hearts of your St. Stephen's community.


  1. Oh, Kitty, I am so moved by your thoughtful writing.I think of Lauren so often, as do so many of us. Our memory of her is one of the many things that keeps us close to our sweet school. Kathryn

  2. The spring of my senior year a car accident killed one of my classmates and seriously injured two of my friends. I wonder how many people can tell a similar story.

  3. Oh, Kitty. How can I type this, when it is so very hard to see the keyboard through my tears? How beautiful, what you wrote. When we lost Lauren and Stephanie, the loss literally punched a hole through our hearts and our souls. To this day, those holes are there, and can never be filled. The ache that we felt then is STILL hard to bear. The only way I could ever find some kind of peace about this was to know that they both were safe, in God's arms. I DO know that Lauren has been by my side every day of my life; she has made her presence known to me many times since that day in September, 1971. I loved her then, I love her now. Thank you, Kitty. What you wrote was simply beautiful.

  4. Oh, my, I am reading this at work and am so filled with emotion. That could have been any of us and what you wrote about that photo brought back so many memories for me also--the sandals (yes I had a pair), the hair (I could wear mine like that...)and the reverie without all the electronics.

    Thank you for sharing this with us and reminding us that life is precious and those we have loved stay with us forever

  5. What a beautifully written and solemn tribute. That picture and your memories makes them live again.

  6. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman taken too soon. How haunting these 'found' memories can be. I have one of my own that I am posting tomorrow.

    Thank you so very much for the kind words & sentiments you left at my place today.



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