Saturday, November 19, 2005

AmeriCorps, Chapter the Last: Farewell, Fire 4

from my journal after graduation in November 2002....often choppy, silly writing, but raw and certainly heartfelt.

Thursday, November 21, 2002:

Well, today was the big day! It's all just about over now, it's way late and I'm sorta out of it.

Last night Geo and I walked to the Rendez-Vous (for the last time!). The bar was almost empty and all locals. [The team etc] sat around talking, it was pleasant. The group moved into the bar because Seth got up to jam with the band. He was great, as usual. God, the last night! Then the shuffleboard challenge--Joe and Shannon teamed up with, then against, their moms. It was fun.

Got a ride home, took a shower and went to Mandi's to sleep on the couch. Jen's team was at our house having a sleepover, so. Got to bed around 12. Mini Mort came downstairs and slept on the couch with me! Yay, that made me happy.

Saturday, November 23, 2002:

Back to Thursday: At 5, woke up, played with baby Frankie, went back to my house, in the cold, gray, predawn light, and got ready. Got all my shit put together and swept my room. Joe Cook did our inspection and hardly checked anything, it was way easy and a relief.

Soon got in the shuttle van to the gym for breakfast/outprocessing. We sat around for two hours and did nothing. We took a few team pictures. Sat around. Some people played around or said goodbye. I did neither.

Finally it was 9am and we all drove to the community center. Waited around for awhile, taped some teammates, then the ceremony was starting before we knew it. Jen S welcomed everyone and introduced the Bix. He spoke, introducing people and addressing us a little too. We all served over 300,000 hours, an average of 1907 hours per person. Just about everyone got the President Service award with over 1800 hours (remember, 1700 are required to complete the program). The next speaker was the acting national director of NCCC. He talked about the three C's, and then introduced the guest speaker, the new inspector general at CNCS. Then we all walked across the stage by team. That took awhile, and there were awards given out. Dez was nominated our Team Motivator. Ty from Ice was the Corps Member Speaker, he talked about the pledge and how our year fulfilled its tenets.

Finally, we were presented--Northeast Region Class 8 Graduates! and recessional. That's what really made me tear up--"graduates"--it hit me that it was really all over, the year was finished and my world was about to be uprooted and tossed in the wind. I was sobbing as quietly and controlled as I could. Once outside, some of us cried in earnest and hugged. A last team picture--Fire 4 Schmire 4.

Four of our team were leaving on shuttles at 11.45 and we had like half an hour to grab some hors d'oevres, see the quilt, pick up programs and corps directories, and of course say our farewells. I found a few non-team friends, and then it was time. Had to say goodbye to my team! It was really hard. I cried because I couldn't imagine not seeing them again. I mean, I'm sure parts of the group will be in touch and visit others, but the "team" is gone, we'll never be Fire 4 again, we won't be living together or doing any work together or hanging out at Perry Point or those lame houses (who knew we'd come to love them so much?). We're just regular people, another group of has-beens who don't have much in common except for the most intense ten months any of us will ever experience--together.

A quiet, introspective journey to BWI. Dez and I stuck together. There were 13 of us in the shuttle. Brodie was there too. We said bye to Ashley, that was just surreal. Thankfully boarding began relatively soon, we didn't have to sit around waiting forever. The flight was long and there was no video. I read a little but my eyes burned and I dozed when I could.

In Denver, Dez and I got a bite to eat and talked about the year. Then the three hour flight to Seattle. Finally arrived. Mom was there to meet me. Had to say goodbye to the remaining members of Fire 4.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002:

Have I mentioned that I feel like I've lost a limb, like sometime vital was ripped from my person when I left my team? Lots of members have sent out messages, mass emails of hey, I miss you guys, how're you doing. Mandi mentioned in one email that AmeriCorps feels like a dream. And it so does! Life at home is exactly the same even as it is utterly different, you know? It is so lonely here without my team nearby.

When I was looking at these newest pictures, everything felt current, not in the past already. Like I would still be seeing these people again every day. How can the year be over already? I don't understand. Though January 24 seems eight million years ago, it seems like it should be just last week. It can't be over already. I can't believe it's over, that we survived it, that we all had such an indescribable year. I should feel lucky that I have wonderful people who remember it with me. I know I could have never done it without them.

Man, I remember those times when if I could have, I woulda been outta there so fast. But I had no choice--well, I allowed myself no choice--none of us did--I had to stay there and stick it out, grit my teeth til the tough times faded. Wow, talk about challenges! Holy cow. We got through some amazingly unbelievable things, our little team. Wow.

My heart is numb yet, but I can feel how it will ache when I fully grasp the permanence of the past and our new separate lives. But we will forever be connected, even if no one ever spoke to each other again. And that's what counts, I think.


Back to the present: Saturday, November 20, 2005:

I miss you, Fire 4.

I continue to treasure the time we spent together, good and bad, and look forward to keeping in touch, continuing on our own paths, growing as individuals, but also as friends. I can't believe it's been three years since we've been all together. And I can't wait until either the five-year reunion we talked about, or someone's wedding. Who will be first??

Love, bunches of love, to all of you.

For the newest graduates of NCCC Class XI, best of luck assimilating back into the "real world," and may the lessons learned in AmeriCorps leave a lasting impression on your hearts.


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