Barn fire stokes memories for equestrian team

“Barn fire.” The words are enough to send shivers down the spine of any horse person or anyone who’s read Black Beauty. And yet several weeks ago, such nightmarish Black Beauty-inspired imaginings were reality. On August 7, a bolt of lightning struck the equestrian team’s home at Bonnie Lea Farm, leaving the animals inside untouched but burning the barn to the ground.

In seconds, a fire can destroy plans, assumptions, priorities, thousands of dollars in equipment and thousands more in the irreplaceable – and yet, it cannot destroy memory. Rather, it creates new memories even as it destroys – memories of superhuman efforts, of individuals working together to do the impossible, of a town uniting – and, moreover, it emphasizes the importance of past memories that linger always in its ashes.

Events like these cannot be smoothed over: Bonnie Lea and the equestrian team will be different after the fire. Memory, though, will persist as continuity: memories of pre-team-practice huddling in that barn before braving the February weather to catch our horses, memories of conversations in the crossties and of the buzzing bustling in the tack room before our home horse show. It is landmark upheavals like these – whether resulting from human choices or natural disasters – that allow for change and, potentially, for growth. At the same time, though, it is such changes that allow us to acknowledge the power of our past, the importance of memory.

The DeMayos, owners of Bonnie Lea, have already begun to build a new barn amidst the ashes of the old. The team will do everything we can to help in the wake of disaster: we owe nothing less both to Lisa DeMayo and to memory.

Rachel Schneebuam ’09

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