Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Standing for Tom

Last night we went to Alex's school to celebrate their achievements - lots of students came to receive their GCSE and AS and A Level certificates.

Many of them had come back from their first term at university, many from their first term of college (most of whom seemed to be at the school's own 6th form).

As well as receiving their certificates, there were also special awards for each subject in each year.

Alex had to be dragged - almost literally - to the event. "Nothing special" was his attitude. He was reluctant to shed jeans and wear trousers and a reasonably smart shirt. But we are glad we went - because he won an award for Media studies.

He got a little whoop of encouragement from classmates when he went up to collect his, a nice sign of the cameraderie in his group of friends. Many of those we saw collecting awards we knew, some since primary all those years ago.

The Head did a reasonable job of hosting; though no game show host, he did passably well. The guest speaker, a professor who is transferring all of Newton's works onto the web (some 8 million words?!), gave a slightly too long but interesting talk too.

The moment that got me though - above even watching my son receive his award - was when the kids 'stood for Tom'.

Nearly three weeks ago a young man called Tom, just 19, was killed on the rail crossing in our town. I didn't know him, but I knew people who did, and all were unanimous is their sadness at the loss of this young man.

At the celebration evening, Tom's parents attended to collect his A level certificates. What courage it took them to stand there in front of hundreds of people, every one knowing their loss. The applause was amazing - but the kids, his friends, showed us all what to do. They stood for Tom. The teachers followed, and then everyone else in the room.

Other parents that I knew were in front of us, and at one point turned to us and said 'So what's Alex going as to the party, then?' Party? What party? 'Oh,' she said. 'There's a party on Friday and the invitation says 'Fancy dress, and this means you too Alex'!

He has declared he is going as an elf. But it's a good thing she mentioned it - he had forgotten and we hand't a clue it was on. And elf! That'll be the day.
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