Here's What I Think About That

Taking Care of Each Other


A few friends and I go swimming early in the morning in Von Geldern Cove. We’d done it a dozen times already this summer, I was getting acclimated to it and kind of proud of us for continuing a somewhat crazy-sounding ritual of the first settlers of Home.

When it was time to head back this last time, the boat ramp seemed like a long way away. I was swimming but going nowhere fast. I freaked myself out a bit, thinking I’d already been in the cold water for 20 minutes and needed to get to shore quickly. I could feel the adrenaline pumping, but I was like a car stuck in neutral: the engine was revving and going nowhere.

But I wasn’t alone. My friends were close by. “Hey, I think I’m having a little trouble here.” I hadn’t wanted to acknowledge that I was struggling but knew I had to for my safety and for their own, and of course my friends were great. Their voices and presence made the anxiety I felt subside. I finally reached a place where I could stand and felt a huge sense of relief. But also embarrassment. And maybe even grief.

I wasn’t the badass I thought I was.

That’s what this year has been like. For me, and for a lot of people I know.

My 80-year-old neighbor called the other day to say he is sick with Covid. And he was vaccinated. He went out one time to a local store without his mask, he said, and is now ill and in quarantine because someone else there wasn’t vaccinated.

Another neighbor just told he knew one of the young Marines killed at the airport in Afghanistan Aug. 26, where he was working on the largest evacuation-airlift ever attempted.

With news of one unprecedented disaster after another, including the presence of the coronavirus delta variant spreading on the Key Peninsula, it is easy to fall into a state of despair.

And this is at a time when arguably the most proactive accomplishment on the Key Peninsula in generations has been achieved: the new Evergreen Elementary School. In the middle of our troubles, there is reason to hope and endless possibilities for the future on the first day of school in the first new school built on the KP in decades.

Facing the front entrance for the first time left me speechless.

I was with new Peninsula School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr, Director of Facilities Patrick Gillespie and Director of Communication Aimee Gordon. But in my mind, I was my 7-year-old self in pigtails standing there in awe. The architecture alone inspires greatness and wonder.

Perhaps best of all, I thought to myself, is the undeniable evidence that the future of the Key Peninsula really matters. We matter. Our children matter. Our teachers matter. The construction of a beautiful new school here tells us so.

Standing there in silence delivered a powerful feeling I had nearly forgotten –– civic pride.

Bahr comes from a rural community herself, where she and her husband live on 9 acres and have horses. She toured the school earlier with Evergreen Principal Hugh Maxwell and a few staff members and said she can feel the excitement.

“Looking at the natural elements of this building, all the details and the connection of outdoor and indoors –– I’m terribly excited,” Bahr said. A big advocate for both STEM and environmental education, as a superintendent Bahr also works for environmental sustainability at the national level. 

“I love to help communities actualize the intersection between children and nature and play,” she said. “I think it’s even more important post-pandemic.”

There have been many bright spots to find as the pandemic drags on. The Key Peninsula community has continued its steady progress toward the future while struggling against the coronavirus. This is the direct result of many people working together toward achieving a common goal.

“The plan is to be in this building the first day of school,” Gillespie said. “There are lots of people working hard, working weekends, to make it happen.”

School starts Sept. 7 for most grades and Sept. 9 for kindergartners. All students are supposed to wear masks, except for medical and religious exceptions, and all staff are to be vaccinated, again except for those same exceptions.

In other words, we need to stay a little closer to shore, and if we can’t do that, we need to remember to stick together.