The Sequoia is the tallest tree on earth, hitting heights approaching 300 feet. At over 30 feet in diameter, these massive trees show the scars of forest fires and other natural disasters, withstanding them all while producing more oxygen than any other tree.
As readers of the Caledonian-Record know, and our school community heard in Chapel on Thursday, we have a Sequoia among us. Ours is named Sequoia Simonds and lives in Lunenburg, Vermont. Our Sequoia stands about six-feet tall, pretty tall given that he’s only a freshman, but Thursday standing behind the podium in Fuller Hall, he stood even taller as a hero.
I don’t use the term “hero” lightly. In my Senior English class, we begin each semester discussing what makes a person a hero, and we usually end up with some definition along the lines of “someone who uses their gifts and strengths to serve others and contribute to the greater good in extraordinary ways.” If this definition identifies the key traits of a hero, then Sequoia Simonds is certainly a hero among us.
For those who do not know Sequoia’s story, he was at home with his mom’s fiancé Jimmy Clark when Clark doubled over. As Sequoia’s mom (who had stepped out for a bit) re-entered the room, Clark looked up, wide-eyed and tearful, and then collapsed to the floor, hitting his head on a desk as he fell. Sequoia immediately dialed 911 as his mom hysterically tried to help her fiancé; then Sequoia pushed his mom away and began performing CPR, keeping it up until help arrived. Clark was rushed to the local hospital and then airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, where he spent several days in a coma before his condition improved enough for his release.
Sequoia had recently learned CPR in his freshman health class, and he kept the Bee Gee’s song “Stayin’ Alive” in his head as he delivered the compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The emergency personnel eventually arrived and took over, but Sequoia had helped save a life by using the knowledge, strength, and skills he had to offer.
In his speech in Chapel, Sequoia did not dwell on his heroism or even his accomplishments. Instead, he told us to make sure that we let the important people in our lives know how much we love them, and he also said that when we get a chance to show them how much we love them, or get a chance to serve them—even save their lives—we should not let it go to our heads. We should be humbly thankful that we had the strength and skills to serve and that we have those people in our lives in the first place.
This remarkable young man is an inspiration in so many ways. He is indeed the embodiment of all of the traits associated with his name: firmly rooted in his family and friendships, drawing strength from his family and school environment, and standing strong through hard times. However, he has done things that no Sequoia tree has ever done. Despite being strong and tall, he has reached down, has drawn close to others, close enough to be the heartbeat for someone whose heart was failing and the breath for someone who could not breathe.
As I said after Sequoia was done speaking, he has inspired me to stand tall like a Sequoia—to aspire to be a hero like our Sequoia. I hope his story gives us all a renewed sense of purpose: to be firmly rooted with confidence in our strengths, drawing strength from our community, and to humbly bend to serve the needs of others.