The old timber building where I went to school formed the backdrop to most of the important moments in my young teenage life.
Thoughts come tumbling back as I look back on those days - I'm thinking of looking for patches of warmth in the art quad as the winter sun made geometric patterns on the concrete. I'm thinking of the pink fruit buns from the downstairs canteen. I'm thinking of being the lookout at the toilets. I'm thinking of the little English room where I learned how amazing words could be, and the eccentric art teacher who made us realise we were women who could achieve whatever we wanted to in life.
Richmond River High in Lismore in northern NSW is where strong friendships were made, hearts were broken, dreams took seed, and memories were made.
And there are many memories - laughing with friends as we tromped from class to class on the old wooden verandas, bad 80s fashion at socials, skipping school to catch the train to Byron Bay, learning to love words, and learning to live with floods.
But now, after almost 100 years, students will make no more memories there. The school building has been deemed "unsalvageable" after catastrophic floods swept through Lismore, devastating much of the town.
It is difficult to imagine the beautiful old building will never again have the footsteps and laughter of school kids echoing around the wooden verandas.
During my school years, flooding was a part of life - about 11 floods were recorded in the six years I was there, ranging from minor to major. But none left behind the devastation experienced on February 28.
As kids, we welcomed the few days off school that came with the floods. But it was short-lived. On return we were met by the awful stench of floodwater that lingered for months, and the task of helping clean away the mud.
The school had withstood flood after flood, but in February, floodwater surged into every classroom, stopping just a few steps short of reaching the third storey library.
In its wake, only one building is potentially salvageable - the heritage value of the oldest part of the school may be its saving grace - and the Education Department has to consider the future viability and safety of the site.
Sure a better, more fit for purpose building will be built, but all that heritage will be gone and the memories of thousands of kids will go with it.
Love it, or hate it, our school years form much of our character, and the place we went almost every day for six years becomes a pretty important place in our lives.
For me, there is much history at Richmond River High School. My mum and dad both went there - it's where they met and fell in love, I went there, and my sons went there.
Many people in Lismore share that history, that connection, and share my mixed emotions about the news the school site will close.
There's so much sentiment about the building, but the safety and what is best for future students must be considered.
Today's students are not there enjoying their school years like they should be. Instead, they face up to two years learning out of demountable buildings at someone else's school.
We don't know when another flood will come, but for a group of kids who have already missed so much school during the pandemic, perhaps the difficult decision to move is the right one.
So now, I'm thinking of my old school friends, the good times and the not so good.
And one moment that seems a little poignant. Late one afternoon, a storm hit. Lightning shattered the spire on the bell tower above the old hall, scattering splinters of wood to the ground below. Everyone rushed to pocket those splinters as "mementos", and I probably still have mine somewhere.
It's sad that now, it really will be a memento of a school that once was.
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