Today I am thankful for the Etown Survivors’ Guild.

But perhaps this needs some explanation.

From February of 1998 through September of 2009, I worked for the Elizabethtown Area School District. During my time there, I had the privilege of working with lots of good people. A few of us became good friends and keep in touch to this day, even though we don’t see each other as often as we’d like.

When I started at Etown, I worked with Joe Way, whom I’ve known since Kindergarten. There are very few non-family relationships in my life that have lasted longer than my friendship with Joe. For the duration of our time together at Etown, it was just the two of us handling all technical work (there was someone else in our department that handled professional development, but that’s a series of unfortunate stories for another day). Joe left for greener pastures, and considerably more money, in the fall of 1999.

Joe’s departure left room for the return of David Mancuso, who had worked at Etown prior to a stint at Manheim Township School District (where I now work). Dave and I immediately became fast friends. Through the years, he’s been like a big brother to me, whether he was getting a forklift stuck in the mud or driving us all crazy because he decided to take some Aderall that wasn’t prescribed to him. I confess that I have tormented David somewhat mercilessly over the years, from repeatedly changing the language settings on his computer to Catalan, to the time we stuffed a towel into his vent to block the air conditioning from coming into his office.

Dave and I recognized the need for another tech person in the department, so when the after mentioned professional development person departed, we moved to hire Mike Williams, who was, at the time, working for Manheim Township. Mike, whom I’ve known since Middle School, joined the team in the summer of 2000. We love to tease Mike about his temper (but never for too long at one time), but the guy would give his friends the shirt off his back when needed. It was comforting to know that if I ever needed to have someone’s kneecaps broken, I could count on Mike.

Dan Baver joined the team a few years later. We made fun of Dan for being a hippie (he wasn’t), and because he was a vegetarian (he was, at least until the day he ate some pepperoni pizza for lunch), but everybody loved Dan. Except the superintendent at the time, who was apparently unaware that Dan was a paid employee; I can only assume that he thought Dan was some sort of full-time volunteer. But he wasn’t; he was an employee, and a darn good one at that.

Shortly thereafter, through another series of twists and turns, we hired Tom Crawford. Tom and I hit it off right away because of our mutual love of music (Tom is a monster on the guitar, and probably even better on the bass) and staying up late, when we would inevitably wind up on iChat, discussing any random topic that might cross our brains. Our offices kinda sorta faced each other, so we quickly developed a kind of unspoken shorthand which allowed to exchange sarcasm and snark without uttering a word.

I know that lots of people develop friendships with their co-workers. It’s only natural. After all, you’re with each other for many of your waking hours, so why not make the best of it? But I like to think that we really had something special with that team at Etown.

None of us is there anymore. Joe, of course, was the first to go. Dan was next, although he did come back for a short while, after which he ended up with Joe at Exeter. Mike left for the IU in 2007, Dave took a teaching job in 2008, and I landed at Manheim Township in 2009. Tom held out until 2011, when he moved over to the School District of Lancaster.

And that was that.

But we still stay in touch, and we try to organize semi-regular gatherings where we all get together. The six of us went through a lot together, and even as life pulls us in different directions, we’re bound by the time we spent in the Technology Department of the Elizabethtown Area School District.

I am thankful for the Etown Survivors’ Guild.

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