I wept as I watched Notre Dame's spire topple, the centuries-old marvel engulfed in flames. While I am not a religious person, it was devastating to witness the demise of this icon. I knew that my reaction could not even begin to approximate that of the countless Parisians and Catholics mourning this tragedy. It struck me that, more than a place of worship, a stunning architectural masterpiece, or an international tourist destination, Notre Dame is both an anchor and a bridge. She is a durable reminder of the foundation built by those who came before and a monument to humanity. Centuries of vision, passion, and sacrifice created a touchstone around which a city grew; history literally unfolded "before her eyes". In this way, Notre Dame is simultaneously a connection to the past and a conduit to the future. She is a source of civic pride and a galvanizing force, a magnet that draws people together in shared admiration and appreciation.
While perhaps not as grand or as old as Notre Dame, each of us can think of physical spaces that have figured so prominently in our lives that their impact is lasting and their memory evokes an emotional response. At Brentwood, I've noticed that there are anchor places in each Division. In the Lower School it's under the "umbrella tree" in the grassy center of campus, in the Middle School it's the tables that dot the pool patio, and in the Upper School the North Quad is such a place for many.
The central gathering point for decades, a place where lifelong friendships have been forged and even romance has blossomed, the North Quad is the historic core of the East Campus.
In addition to being a popular site for reunions, it is also frequently the first stop for visiting alumni. And, for our current students, it is claimed by the sophomore class as their lunch area. In fact, ask just about any Upper School student and they can tell you which physical location "belongs" to each grade level—the magnets that draw them together. Soon, an important culminating tradition will take place in the Senior (or South) Quad. On their last day of classes, seniors gather in their quad, which is adorned by the mural each senior class designs and paints before school starts, to blast music and celebrate together their final day as Brentwood students.
Whether or not they realize it while they are here, Brentwood students are connected for life. They are bound by their years spent together, their struggles and triumphs, the relationships fostered, and the traditions shared. Most importantly, the campuses that served as their bridge from childhood to adulthood make up the physical foundation to which they can return time and again and will remain, both literally and figuratively, their touchstone.