While newly-admitted freshmen listened with rapt attention to the drone of Collection speakers and to the buzz of a swarm of satisfied mosquitoes, disaster struck. In a freak and unprecedented accident, all 353 freshmen dropped their candles at precisely the same time – 7:34 p.m. August 30th, according to the Fire Marshall’s report – and the drought-stricken Scott Amphitheatre grounds quickly burst into flame.
In the initial moments of panic, an unknown voice in the crowd recalled the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire of 1911 in New York, in which 146 garment workers perished, as providing a possible model of how not to proceed.
Unfortunately, by 7:40 p.m. the discussion of the Triangle Fire seems to have led to a heated debate on the early 20th Century American labor movement, which gave the fire time to envelop the Scott Amphitheatre into an unstoppable curtain of flame stretching into the sky.
“This unchecked inferno devoured the most qualified class in Swarthmore history,” noted Admissions Dean Jim Bock.
“The firestorm claimed the lives of a cricket player, a state Tetris champion, a Shakespearean actor, a Pokemon tournament runner-up, and an America’s Got Talent contestant. Also consumed in the blaze were students from all fifty states and countries including Albania, Denmark, Micronesia, Mongolia, and a dozen more.”
“I worked really hard for that Micronesia kid,” added Bock.
Witnesses, including President Rebecca Chopp, noted that she was impressed by the “intellectual curiosity and the dedication to social action – even in the face of grave danger” of the class of 2016. Chopp reportedly survived the inferno through a combination of sheer willpower and the intercession of Athena.
As maintenance crews cleared the ash of the Crum Amphitheatre away, members of the Swarthmore community, from faculty to staff reacted with a mixture of calm and dignified mourning to the news.
“Oh thank goodness,” declared a Political Science professor who wished to remain anonymous. “I won’t have to do my first year seminar for another year. After two decades of teaching, how can they possibly still think I’d be interested in political theory?
In light of what Dean Braun called a “serious and deplorable incident” in a school-wide email, a Collection will be held on Monday, September 3rd. Speakers – including counselors and representatives from many faith-based communities — will commemorate the occasion and help those gathered begin the healing process.
After Collection, this year’s RAs will present a visual art collection “Remembering the Unknown: Freshmen Hall Decorations and Our Wasted Effort“ in the List Gallery.
The exhibition includes such moving pieces as an entire set of Star Wars door signs. “I might not remember their names, but I definitely remember their Jedi aliases,” said an RA who wished to remain anonymous. “To be honest, the Han Solo over by the water fountain might have been swoop potential.”
In the end, the administration is confident that the campus will heal and even grow stronger in the wake of this unfortunate incident.
“Let’s try to remember, all clouds have a silver lining,” said Rachel Head, Director of Student Housing. “I’d like to remind the classes of 2013, 2014, and 2015 that this also means that you’ll probably get a better room in the next housing lottery.”
“Of course,” Head quickly added, “there are never any guarantees.”