While Chicago and most of the midwest is hunkering down in preparation for “snowmageddon,” my school is preparing teachers, parents, and students for business as usual. The blizzard alert for Chicago on The Weather Channel emphatically warns people not to travel, and if they must, to have a “winter survival kit” in their car. Winter survival kits be damned — our doors will be open!
My school prides itself on remaining open, no matter the conditions. I have worked here for 19 years, and in those years, we haven’t closed. We didn’t close when downtown Chicago flooded with 25o million gallons of water in 1992, and we didn’t close when temperatures dropped well below freezing for several days in a row. Nor did we close in 1999, when just after the New Year, almost two feet of snow fell as we prepared to return to school after the Winter Break. This pride, perhaps one might call it hubris, seems to border on the absurd. While public and private schools in the city routinely follow a practice of closing doors to keep students and faculty safely in their homes and to keep people who don’t need to travel off of major roadways, we keep our doors open, sometimes at the risk of faculty and students arriving safely.
I remember the Blizzard of 1979. I was in 7th grade and recall walking down the middle of the street — slipping and stumbling, really — to go to our local grocery store, The Shop ‘n Bag, for milk, tea, and eggs. We hunkered down, shoveled ourselves and neightbors out, and waited for the streets to clear. We drank tea and hot chocolate, read books, played in the snow, and enjoyed the beauty and wonder of it all, from our safely cozy, warm house. We did venture out, pulling and grunting, slipping and sliding with the Radio Flyer loaded down with newspapers. My bother had a substantial paper route, and the whole family pitched in to get the papers delivered. I lived on the South Side, and we were not high on the priority list of streets to be cleared — then again, it was the Bilandic debacle, so Chicagoans all faced the snow blanketed streets together.
I am a little saddened that Gorilla Girl and Monkey Man may never experience an actual “snow day.” If our school never closes its doors, they will either be compelled to come to school, or will stay home when it feels more like cutting than an unexpected gift.
I am too young to remember the Blizzard of 1967 — still, the biggest one on record in Chicago, but I remember my parents’ discussion — I was only one during the Blizzard of ’67, but the thing my parents never forgot was that my dad’s Blue Chevy was stolen just after the Blizzard. After looking at these photos that tell the story of the Blizzard of ’67 in all of its awesome detail, I can’t figure out exactly how the blue Chevy was stolen from under the enormous piles of snow. Maybe my dad just forgot where he parked it! I plan to have my camera ready for this next big one.