Our beloved leader, Dr. Michael Doran, died today [Aug. 19]. The Wootton community is reeling.
In the past two years, we’ve lost so many: Sam Williams, in a car accident in April 2014; Ryan Walden in a suicide that same month; Kira Harrison in another suicide in August 2014; Alex Murk and Calvin Li in a car accident this past June.
And now the man who helped us all through those tragedies is gone.
It feels like a lot of loss in a very short amount of time. It feels pointed, or targeted, or purposeful somehow. It feels like we in the Wootton community are cursed.
Just after I heard about Dr. Doran today, after my phone blew up and I tried to figure out what was going on, after the worst was confirmed and I texted the people who had asked me for news, I sat in my car and I cried, loud, painful, sobs of grief.
I couldn’t stop thinking about my dad. My beloved father, Bill Forster, died this past February. Since then I’ve been so careful of triggers. At first they were everywhere. I saw a man wearing a tie that reminded me of a tie my father had, and I cried. I saw a man on the street with a slight limp, like my dad, and I cried. Every damn song on the radio seemed to be about him. It hurt all the time. So I started anticipating triggers, so I could protect myself and control my feelings. It has been mostly successful.
And then a man who felt like a father to me, who nurtured me in my career, and protected me and trusted me and supported me, just like my dad did, died. Out of the blue, for no reason, with no explanation. It feels like the very ground under me is made of wavy, unsubstantial matter, and could give way without warning. Because it keeps doing that very thing. It feels like I can’t take much more. It feels like we can’t take much more.
I know those of you who knew Sam, and Ryan, and Kira and Alex and Calvin and Dr. Doran feel the same way. I know because you’ve been texting me all day long. I know because I read your twitter posts. I know because I feel it too. It hurts. My heart and my head and my chest — they all hurt.
I don’t know what will happen next. I don’t know who will possibly step in to fill the shoes of such a man as Michael Doran. Or how someone could even try. But they will. Probably tomorrow someone will be in place to take charge and usher us into another school year. It won’t possibly be the same, but we will carry on. Life goes on.
Dr. Michael Doran was tremendously respected in the very large community but very small world that is Montgomery County. His influence went wide. His loss is felt deeply. No one could ask for more. I have my own memories of this great man. The first is the day I met him, when he hired me and told me that if my previous principal, Michael Durso, had hired me, he didn’t need to ask me a single question. He trusted those he respected. The second memory is of the final words he spoke at the seven Wootton High School graduations I had the honor to attend as faculty. In his gentle Irish brogue, he gave the graduates this traditional Irish blessing: May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way home. Those you of privileged to receive that blessing in the past 12 years, count yourself lucky.
As I weep for my own loss, and for the losses my community has suffered in the past two years, all I know is that we will make it through this together. It’s our only option: together.
After his Irish blessing, Dr. Doran’s final words were, “Never forget, Patriots rule.” And we do, oh how we do. Many might pity us now, for all that we have been through, but I am so, so honored to be a part of this community. Dr. Michael Doran sure was.
Evva Starr is the newspaper and yearbook adviser at Thomas S. Wootton High School. This is from her blog, “After Deadline.”