A photo, a name, a memory. I looked at the group again on the computer screen.
In all, there were 24 young, smiling faces. They were shown as soon-to-be high school graduates, with hopes and dreams of successes and happiness ahead of them.
Some had big plans and often talked about them. I remember one who was planning on eventually taking over his father’s business, a successful construction operation. Another also was in line to inherit the family store. One was intent on following his parents, brothers and sisters into agricultural enterprises.
There were others who were planning to attend college, then venture into business or scientific endeavors. Some were inclined to use strong backs and minds to build homes or highways. Others were just hoping to have happy families and live normal lives, staying relatively close to the home where they grew up.
Now, some 40 years after those photos were made, every member of that group is gone. But they won’t be forgotten. In fact, those attending the high school reunion this weekend in Ponca City will honor their memory.
They were members of a class of more than 500 (555. as I recall). Not everyone was close friends with everyone else. It would be rare for that to happen in a class of that size, even though many schools today have much larger groups. But, all things considered, I remember there was a feeling of unity because we saw or interacted with most of our class during any given week, particularly during the school year.
Losing 24 of 555 in four decades might not seem like that high a number (4 percent, by my figures) to most people. But these were individuals we knew well, people we shared many experiences with, dated, or had as teammates.
As I glanced again at the screen, I thought about what the photos didn’t show, but that some — many — of us knew. Some of those classmates already were facing major challenges when those photos were taken. For example, at least two were fighting serious health issues and both eventually died of their illnesses.
At least two others faced life issues they could not overcome. Some were lost to accidents, some were victims of violence. There are others I have no idea about, yet.
The group included athletes, dancers, singers. There were those who were skilled with their hands, those who were skilled with their minds.
I can remember some thing, some event relating to most all of them. Some were close friends; some were just friends. But all were our classmates.
We will remember them.