Back in the olden days when cameras used film and you had to carefully unload exposed film in a darkroom, I worked for a school picture company. I always thought it was pretty cool that I was helping to create a memory, complete with missing teeth, braces or pink hair, that a particular student or parent(s) would treasure (or use for future blackmail). Some of my work can probably even be found on the “awkward school pictures” site.
Photo packages were ordered in advance, and depending on where the school was located, it could be predicted how that would go. At the high-dollar private schools, kids were dressed in the latest fashion, clean and shiny-faced, and came to the camera clutching orders for the biggest packages, with all the “extras” like color backgrounds, retouching and “grandparent packages.”
Then there was the other end of the spectrum.
Every child in each school was expected to file past the camera, even if no pictures were being purchased, for yearbook and ID pictures. These were known as “service photos,” and many times, since no money was to be made with these shots, the temptation was just to plop the kid on the stool and snap once, not taking much care to comb hair or straighten a collar. At some urban schools, the majority of the pictures were service photos because families just couldn’t afford to buy packages.
One of the older photographers put it all into perspective.
“If something were to happen to that child, this would be the picture you would see on the news and in the paper,” she said.
I thought of those words recently.
I looked at the pictures of the students who were killed in the Chardon shootings, which were published in the newspaper and shown online and on TV. These were school pictures, the last school pictures these students’ families will have of them.
Daniel Parmertor was smiling, even with his eyes. Demetrius Hewlin looked like the intense athlete friends said he was. And Russell King Jr. peered out from under stylish bangs. All frozen in time.
In an interview after the shootings, Darrell Scott, whose daughter Rachel was the first victim of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999, said that pictures of these students lying around the house will become “priceless possessions, they will be treasured.”
Children, whether we are a parent or not, are treasures for us all.
At a community meeting following a bomb threat at Rocky River High School three days after the Chardon shootings, Superintendent Michael Shoaf lauded police and St. Christopher School, to which some high school students were evacuated, for their assistance. “When you send us your children, we will take care of them,” he said.
During her weekly report to City Council the following week, Mayor Pam Bobst noted that city and school representatives had just reviewed the schools’ emergency protocol after the Chardon shootings, then had to put it into action a few days later. “It’s fortunate we don’t do this very often, but the community can be assured that first and foremost, our students are safe,” she said.
During Mass at St. Christopher’s that Sunday, Father John Chlebo echoed these thoughts. He noted that the high school and middle school students are, in an emergency, evacuated to St. Chris, and, in turn, the St. Chris students go to the middle school. “We are all one,” he said.
A thought that we should definitely keep in focus.