Zeitoun Day: Speakers recall life experiences

The Newtonite

by Amanda Hills

In seven different Story Share Panels, speakers described events and experiences that have impacted their lives. This session is related to Zeitoun through the idea that one event can change a person’s life.

Senior Michael Thorpe shared his account of the recession and how it impacted his life. His family was living in Fort Meyers, Florida, when the recession began in 2007. His mother lost her job, and shortly after, his family was forced to relocate. He went to five different schools in a year and a half, finally settling in at this school for his sophomore year.

He said that his constant moves brought him to some underwhelming schools and neighborhoods. When he moved to Newton, he said he experienced a new type of atmosphere with new opportunities. Thorpe reflected, “I got experiences from the recession I never would have had.” Despite the complications and difficulties the recession brought to Thorpe and his family, he learned a valuable lesson from it: “Don’t take Newton for granted,” he said. He learned to appreciate all that Newton has to offer and always urges kids to realize how fortunate they are to live here.

Principal Jennifer Price was also among the storytellers. She spoke of her mother and stepfather’s deaths on United Flight 93 on September 11, 2001. She opened up to the audience about the effect this traumatic event had on her and her family.

“My life was on a pretty nice trajectory, and then I felt like my legs were cut out from under me.” Price’s emotional telling gripped the audience.

One of the storytellers was a New Orleans native who told about her family’s experience in Hurricane Katrina. By the time of the storm in 2005, former South parent Janet Zerlin-Fagan had already moved to Newton. But, her mother and many other relatives remained in New Orleans.

Her mother evacuated with three friends, and, after a long journey, finally made it to Newton where she stayed with Zerlin-Fagan’s family for about four months.

Zerlin-Fagan has returned to New Orleans several times since the hurricane, and is saddened to see how different her beloved city looks. She said, “You can take a person out of New Orleans, but you can’t take New Orleans out of someone’s heart. Going back, you see where you grew up and everything is just so devastated.” Her powerful story of her journey away from New Orleans and its infamous hurricane reinforced some of the main points of Zeitoun.

The storytellers’ range of experiences provided many examples of how one event can alter a person’s life forever.