A Week Later, Young Students Cope With Fire's Aftermath

A week ago, students at Pleasant Valley Elementary were evacuated as a fast moving fire raced toward their community. They

Pleasant Valley Elementary School First Graders

RENO, NV - It's been a week like no other for the staff at Pleasant Valley Elementary for the staff and its young student body.

A week ago the school was evacuated as a fast moving wild fire raced toward the small community south of Reno.

Today inside the classrooms everything seems back on track.

We found the school's Fifth graders hard at work nailing down the basics of decimal points.

Across the way a group of first graders were fearlessly navigating the world of computers.

This is pretty much what we would have seen at the beginning of the school day last Thursday. Then around midday came word there was a fire over the hill in Washoe Valley.

"I could smell smoke," says fifth grader Jessica Miller, "then Mr. Cordell (the school principal) said we might have to evacuate."

"We were called in earlier from recess and I thought 'this is weird," says classmate and friend Justin Protain. "He said 'Ok we're going to have to evacuate. First through the 3rd grade go ahead and get in the buses.'

Suddenly it was real and as they left, the worries and uncertainties suddenly became very real.

"As we were going down my street I could see my house partly," says Protain, "but I couldn't see the back yard so I got worried about my dogs. I was crying because I was worried about them."

He wasn't alone.

"The little kids were crying," adds Miller. "They didn't understand.".

As it turned out, Jessica's home was unscathed. The backyard at Justin's home burned. His father retrieved their dogs, but both know families who suffered real losses.

The fire is still very much a part of their lives. Each day they return to a school through a neighborhood with burned houses, one just a short distance down the street.

Students at this school are reacting in varied ways.

"From not thinking much about it to a lot of tears, some laughter. They're just kind of all at their own pace in the recovery process," says the school's principal, Derek Cordell.

And the school is helping.

Drive through Pleasant Valley and you'll see signs thanking the firefighters.

The kids haven't forgotten them either. They've written their own thank you notes. Assembled on posters they'll be delivered to those who fought to save their homes just a week ago.

Scary moments and some memories that won't soon be forgotten, but like the neighborhoods they come from these kids are doing their best to recover, support others and move on.


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