"The ’38 Hurricane and 'This is our City!'" by Alden Mauck, faculty speaker

Good morning.

Let me begin by apologizing to the Poli family. Right now they must be asking themselves: “Didn’t that guy give the graduation speech when Chris graduated back in ‘04? Do we really have to listen to him twice?” I also want all of you to know that I have taken today’s heat into consideration and considerably shortened my speech; I have drastically edited "Section five," and deleted almost all of "Part Two," and if I read quickly I should finish in less than 40 minutes.

The best part of that line is that now Bob Henderson is as nervous as I am!

It is my honor to give the graduation speech for the Class of 2013, an outstanding class and one that I know quite well. I have taught many of you, coached a few, watched many of you compete on fields, in the  rink, and on the courts, and marveled at you on the stage as singers and actors. You are an exceptional group of talented young men and women.

However, I also know many of you from my morning post outside of Lawrence Auditorium. In fact there are some of members of your class that I only know from seeing you at 8:01…or 8:05…or 8:17. Actually, there was one boy I sometimes didn’t see until 8:45…but more on Mason in a moment. In the mornings Mr. Resor, Mr. Jankey, and I form what we believe is an impenetrable steel curtain designed to catch Nobles students who arrive late (even though our boss, Carol Derderian, thinks otherwise and will frequently tell us: “You’re all soft.”)

But before I get to the worst offenders amongst you, let me mention some in the Honorable Mention Category:

Kayla, Arielle, and Alexa were sometimes late but so sweet and nice, we would excuse them whenever possible. On the other hand Sleeper and Fitz were neither sweet nor nice, just late, and their buddy Henry Bell always strolled in eating his breakfast and once said to us: “Late? It was only 7:58 when I parked at the rink.” Emily McElvoy would beg for “another chance,” and John Sargent was either too polite or too caffeinated to be truly bothered. Poor Sophie Mussafer was never able to keep up with Olivia, who must have ditched Sophie at their car. Chris Calnan was late whether he was a boarder or a day student. Connor Costello tried to saunter in cool and casual, but he’s not really that cool. Josh St. Fort was much cooler…but still late. Catherine, Emma, and Ilana would surrender to their fate with good-natured disappointment, and Devin would arrive breathless so it at least appeared that she had been running to get to school on time.

But there were some who distinguished themselves by their late arrivals. Jake Bennett came late with other students whom he drove to school and then played upon our sympathy for that poor Claire Dardinski. Jake must have told her: “Look Claire when we get to school, tell Mauck and Resor there was traffic. Just do it.”

Mason Pulde sometimes got to school so late he arrived in the middle of first period class, which happened to be my class. But Mason could always throw himself on the mercy of Mrs. Derderian, and she took care of him. Mrs. Derderian is really the one who is the softie.

But far and away the worst offender of all was Mark Poli, who refused to come to school until Blue Moon Bagel Cafe had prepared his breakfast sandwich just right. In fact one day Mark maintained that he should be excused because Blue Moon had screwed up his order and they were the ones responsible for his Tardy Unexcused. To those in the Class of 2013 whom I have not mentioned, I say…good for you! Thanks for getting to school on time—most days.

Let me now turn to a subject more fitting to the opportunities and also to the responsibilities that this senior class should consider as they leave Nobles today.

In Epic Literature and the Monsters, Swords, and Heroes class we talked a great deal about heroes like Achilles and Hector, Beowulf and Gawain—sword-wielding white men from ancient times. But we also discussed Amram, an African Jew who roamed the Silk Road, and Ma Kilman and Shori, Black women of more modern times who healed others and placed their communities above individual deeds and glory.

From this literature, I take two lessons: First, heroes come from all races and religions, from all corners of the globe, and from both genders. Second, it is clear that all communities need heroes, and this school and this city of Boston are no different: We, too, need our heroes. So let me discuss some local heroes with you.

Every summer for six generations my family has headed to the same town on the Rhode Island shore, so I grew up hearing stories about hurricanes. And in Rhode Island when you talk about hurricanes, you start with the ’38 Hurricane.

In 1938, there was no television or Internet, no "Weather Channel," no Jim Cantore in an L.L.Bean slicker standing outside a Holiday Inn waiting for a hurricane’s arrival. The ’38 Hurricane arrived with no warning and its destruction was apocalyptic. The hurricane killed almost 800 people, most of them in Rhode Island. The storm surge along the Rhode Island coast rose 25 feet above the coinciding high tide, literally washing away entire neighborhoods, twisting railroad tracks like pipe cleaners, throwing cars into harbors and ships onto streets.

Downtown Providence was 13 feet underwater, and New London, Conn., was flooded before the city caught fire and burned out of control for hours. In New Bedford, which boasted one of the busiest harbors in New England, over two thirds of all the boats were sunk that afternoon. Arnold Arboretum estimated 100 million trees were downed in Massachusetts alone, and from New York to Vermont, a total of 2 billion trees were destroyed by the hurricane. The Blue Hill Observatory measured a gust from the ’38 Hurricane at 186 miles per hour.

In Stonington, Conn., the Bostonian, an afternoon train from New York City headed to Boston, was caught in the middle of the ’38 Hurricane, and the storm surge stopped the train in the middle of the trestle at the northern end of Stonington’s harbor.

As the water rose around the train, the Bostonian’s engineer, Harry Easton, pushed the throttle and forced the train as far as he could despite the locomotive being tangled by downed telegraph poles and the tracks blocked by a house and a large schooner. The track bed had been washed away by the rushing storm surge, and train cars began to list into the rising water either side of the trestle, and then boats from Stonington harbor blown loose from docks and moorings began to ram into the stalled train.

Passengers were moved into the first car for safety, and a crewman, Bill Donoghue, dove beneath the stranded train to uncouple the locomotive and first car from the rest of the train. The Conductor Joseph Richards reached into the swirling water and pulled Donoghue back onto the train just before he was swept away. The engineer was able to move the locomotive and first car to higher ground, and passengers were advised by the crew to jump and swim to safety; some were able to make it to shore while others were lost in the raging waters.

On the day of the ’38 Hurricane, the Bostonian was carrying students from the Fessenden school, St. Mark’s School and the Noble and Greenough School. Mrs. Auguste Richard was also traveling with her daughter on the Bostonian that day. In A Wind to Shake the World, Everett Allen details the plight of Mrs. Richard and her daughter once they jumped into the rough water that surrounded the train.

“Her daughter was struck by a floating tree limb and fractured her leg as they swam away from the flooded cars; they were assisted in escaping by Stephen Glidden, 16, of Dover, a pupil at Noble and Greenough, and by Edward Brown, a student at MIT, fellow passengers.”

Imagine that in that terrible and deafening swirl of wind and water, in the midst of the most powerful hurricane to hit New England, Stephen Glidden at age 16 was able to provide assistance and comfort, to exhibit courage and compassion both admirable and at the time essential.

That day on the Bostonian there were many acts of calm decision and outright courage—by the train crew to be sure, but also by ordinary people who had simply boarded an afternoon train in New York eager to get to Boston, and one of those ordinary heroes was Stephen Glidden. I first read A Wind to Shake the World long before I had heard of Nobles, but when I reread the book recently, I proudly noted the actions and contributions of Stephen Glidden, from the Noble and Greenough School’s Class of 1941.

I know that many of you from Nobles—seniors, faculty, middle schoolers, and parents—were at the Boston Marathon this past Patriots Day. Some of you ran for various charities including the Nobles Marathon Fund, others cheered on family and friends, some of you were simply enjoying a beautiful day at the finish line, or maybe you were among the millions just watching the last finishers on television out of the corner of your eye.

And then everything changed.

As a few of you know, I am a devout Baltimore Orioles fan, but after the bombings at the Marathon, even I was happy that the Red Sox won that first game back at Fenway after the chase, shootout, lockdown, and arrest in Watertown. I cheered as Dick Hoyt came out onto the field pushing his son Rick; I appreciated the cheers for the police; I loved the huge American flag unfurled off the Green Monster, and I even found myself humming along with Neil Diamond when he came out to sing “Sweet Caroline.” And I think we were all swept up by David Ortiz’s genuine if colorful assertion that “this is our city.”

“This is our city.” The pride, determination, and outright toughness of that statement seemed if not to close, at least to sum up a week full of tragedy for numerous Boston area families and full of considerable fear and distress for many more of us. However it was also a week of incredible strength and resolve, of courageous action, displayed by nurses and doctors, by EMT’s and firemen, and by police officers from Boston, MIT, the MBTA and Watertown.

Most importantly the week after those bombings showcased spontaneous and unheralded heroism and community loyalty, displayed by ordinary citizens who reacted by doing the extraordinary—by helping strangers severely injured, by giving blood after having run a marathon, by checking a boat’s displaced tarp in a Watertown backyard, and by coming out to applaud police officers who had bravely performed their duty.

The bombings may have occurred on Patriots Day in Boston, but the following week of patriotic heroism is what I will also remember.

Will you in this senior class be called upon as Stephen Glidden was by the ’38 hurricane? Or as many Bostonians were on Patriots Day? Or as others in Oklahoma have been called upon recently by the destructive power of a tornado? I hope you will not be confronted with such dire events. But I have faith that you will rise to whatever challenges and responsibilities you do encounter.

And here is why I believe this—all of you in various ways have already accomplished feats and exhibited talents that prove you are ready to contribute to the greater good, to be admirable representatives of this school.

You have been leaders of teams, both those that won championships and those that competed hard, win or lose. You have rowed and kicked, passed and pinned, checked and shot, always wearing the Nobles Shield, always representing the rest of us with your skill and sportsmanship.

You have published a great newspaper and a fine literary magazine; you have lead MSA, ACC, B2B, Sister 2 Sister and pushed Nobles to be a more diverse and hospitable school for those who will come after you. You have played music—jazz and orchestral—sung songs, and acted in comedy and tragedy, contributing to the growing reputation of Nobles as a school that produces and values outstanding music and theater. And don’t even get me going on the Drowsy Chaperone…It was fantastic.

As artists, you provided Nobles with its most impressive AP Art show, full of paintings, drawings, photographs, and ceramics that demonstrated an aesthetic and intellectual appreciation of both process and product.

And some of you have dared to venture beyond the wall that rings this campus by traveling to help others and to seek adventure in Romania and South Africa, in Cambodia and India, in New Orleans and New York…even the Bahamas.

Most importantly, as graduates of Nobles you are amongst the brightest that this city, this region, this country has to offer. Those of us who have taught you have done our best to provide you opportunities to sharpen your intellectual engagement in literature and history, in math and science, in art and music, and in languages—both modern and classic. You have risen to the expectations of your teachers, and in doing so you have made our classes more interesting, more stimulating, and more fun.

But there is more for you to do.

With your education, your accomplishments, your abilities, and with your Noble and Greenough diploma comes the responsibility for you to represent this school, to contribute, to lead. So leave here today with our respect and with our affection, ready to join Stephen Glidden and others from this school and from this city, prepared to make a difference; willing to be loyal citizens and if need be to be heroes.

Thank you and best of luck to you all.

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"The ’38 Hurricane and 'This is our City!'" by Alden Mauck, faculty speaker