Summer vacation is over. Last Thursday was the first day of another school year for my kids and it was time to resume with the familiar daily routine- get up at 6am, eat breakfast and head out the door by 7:15. However, this first day of school was not like any other. As we got ready, no one spoke out loud about the recent deaths of two schoolmates and a father who were in a tragic plane crash in Arizona. However, I am sure it was in the back of everyone’s minds, not just our family’s- the school year would begin without Conner Porter and Conner Mantsch.
The passing of both Conners (and Pat Porter, an Olympic runner) affected my kids as well as the entire school community. On the eve of the first day of school at Albuquerque Academy, many of us gathered to remember both Conner and Conner and to celebrate their short but meaningful lives. A beautiful and moving ceremony at the medicine wheel on campus was held last Wednesday. The Albuquerque Academy Medicine Wheel is a memorial that was built in honor of Manoa Alcántara Jojola, who had tragically passed away during his senior year in 2000. It is a peaceful place on the outskirts of the main campus in a scenic location among the warm colors of the desert landscape bordered by the mountains to the east and a sprawling view of the sky and city to the west. The medicine wheel in Native American cultural is an important spiritual symbol that represents the sacred circle of life and the strengths and weaknesses of an individual, and guides one to personal growth.
During the ceremony, Andy Watson, the head of school, asked each of us to honor and remember Conner and Conner by asking three questions and sharing our answers with our friends and family: How did Conner and Conner touch your life? What traits from Conner and Conner would you carry forward and practice in your own life? What can you do to keep the memories of Conner and Conner alive? A poem written by Conner Mantsch was read and a beautiful song was sung in honor of both boys. Music played in the background as people brought their written messages up to the basket next to the sphere at the center of the medicine wheel. The messages would be later buried along with all the other messages written for members of the school community that have passed before them.
Conner and Conner will be missed. They touched many lives in different ways and to different degrees. And because of that, many of us will live a much richer and fuller life.