This time of year it seems like everywhere you drive there are signs notifying you that October is fire prevention month. I appreciate the reminder, but I don't really need it. Some of my most vivid memories of elementary school are focused on just that theme.
One day, when the air was crisp and the leaves brilliant against that amazing blue sky, you would arrive at school only to be greeted with the exciting information that there would be an assembly that day. At the designated time, each student would be directed to stand, lift your chair by the stiles, and line up. In that way we would file to the multi-purpose room and set our chairs down in neat rows, transforming the cafeteria to an auditorium.
It was always a fireman in full regalia who would start the program for us. We learned to have a plan: feel the door before opening it, stay low, know where the exits were, and stop drop and roll if necessary. Then we saw a Disney movie made to emphasize those points. I can still remember the hush of the students when they turned the lights off, still see the autumn light filtering through the high slatted windows, still imagine the familiar figure of Walt Disney introducing the film, and still hear the authoritative voice of the narrator speaking to Donald Duck over the soft clickity-clacking of the 16 mm projector.
It all seemed so important, so glorious and exhilarating. There we were, hundreds of souls in a congregation of our own creation, assembled with a common cause-- surviving a fire.
Who could forget that?