Wiscasset Municipal Airport’s apron had a big blue M on it Saturday and planes flew over, one after the next, as Morse High School’s “The Blue and the White” played, and Regional School Unit 1 that serves Woolwich, Bath and Arrowsic graduated its Class of 2020.
Members and others wore face masks for most of the hour and a half ceremony, on an afternoon of blue sky, clouds and a brief wind bout that pulled on the flags onstage and had new graduates holding onto their mortarboards when they picked up their diplomas. The drive-in graduation came a day after Wiscasset’s at Wiscasset Speedway.
At the town-owned airport, five area pilots’ surprise flyover, set for the ceremony’s close, held its own surprise for the pilots: They were meeting up as planned near Swan Island and learned the ceremony was running long, pilot Paul Harvey said in a phone interview Saturday night. So they had a wait. Some landed at Brunswick Landing; others, including Harvey with his seaplane, landed on the Kennebec River and tied off at the Richmond dock.
Then they met back up at Swan Island, and word came the last senior was five minutes from getting their diploma. Harvey was the first to fly over. He said they were happy to do it. “These kids, they can’t graduate (in Bath), so we gave them (the flyover).”
Before graduation, senior Samantha Ramsey’s father Hank’s white and robin’s egg blue 1957 Chevy and rows of other cars were parked facing the stage, families talked socially distanced and mostly masked with one another and with reporters; and seniors posed for family photos and, with one another in their caps and gowns, did the elbow bumps that have replaced handshakes, high fives and fist bumps.
Several families and seniors interviewed said they would have rather been at Bath’s McMann field where Morse usually graduates, but appreciated Wiscasset letting it be held there due to the pandemic precautions.
“It’s special,” Kari Simoneau answered behind a vehicle’s open hatch. She and boyfriend Ian McLaughlin, older brother of senior Jacob, were sitting with an Igloo cooler. Atop it were a Poland Spring water bottle and an open box of Wheat Thins.
“It is definitely is not traditional,” senior Elizabeth Schotten said about graduation as she waited with grandmother Lyni McCreary of Woolwich. “It isn’t McMann, but I am really excited,” Schotten said. McCreary felt the airport venue was a wonderful idea, “so now we can all share this.”
In her honor essay that afternoon, Schotten recalled she took for granted going to school and, on Saturday mornings, going out to breakfast with her mother. With the pandemic, those routines were gone. “No matter what happens ... we should never take what we have for granted.” And as a food service aid at Midcoast Hospital in Brunswick before and during the pandemic, she has seen the staff’s bravery.
“I see the red lines on the faces of our nurses and CNAs wearing the tight M95 masks. I am proud to come for a place where our superheroes wear scrubs,” Schotten said from the stage. The class is also brave, she said. “We came into the world during the wake of 9/11 and the fear that it caused. We will be leaving the nest during the wake of the virus. I believe each and every one of us will be at the forefront of these efforts to rebuild so we can return our community, our state and our nation to normalcy.”
Other speakers also touched on the pandemic; and valedictorian Abigail Durgin told attendees she chose to bring up “the horrific oppression faced by black people, since there are too many Americans who seem comfortable sitting by and ignoring it. What is happening right now in Minneapolis, in Chicago, in countless cities across our country, is the result of over 400 years of oppressing, victimizing and murdering people of color.” Durgin asked that people learn about the issue, sign petitions, call lawmakers and, “if you have money to spare,” donate to organizations.
“It can be so easy to stand idly by, because this issue does not directly affect most of the people here today. But I beg you to find kindness, empathy and fire inside yourselves and use your privilege to help those who need it so badly.” Durgin’s voice broke as she continued, “I am angry about the way black people are treated in this country. And you should be too.” Then she thanked the audience for its time and said she hoped everyone could appreciate “the powerful benefit of open minds and kind hearts.”
Interviewed moments before the ceremony, RSU 1 Superintendent of Schools Patrick Manuel, in a Morse-themed face mask, thanked families, students and staff for their understanding about graduation this year, and thanked Wiscasset and Bath police and the airport for organizing the event. As for the weather, it couldn’t have worked out better, he said.
“I was very happy! I love it when a plan comes together,” Airport Manager Rick Tetrev said via text later.
We are still adding to our photo gallery. Have any you would like to share? Please send them to email@example.com