A fire in the Johnson Automotive Technology Center that occurred in the early morning hours of March 27 has destroyed one vehicle and caused extensive damage to nearby equipment, as well as the upper level of the building itself. No one was injured as a result.
The blaze was caused by a battery charger left running overnight, which overheated and set fire to a Nissan Altima. The car was totally destroyed in the fire. Before the flames could be extinguished, they melted nearby equipment including a mobile computer station, and caused extensive smoke damage.
The fire appears to have started overnight while the building was unoccupied, though it is not clear who was responsible for leaving the charger running.
When we visited the scene of the fire on March 28, the acrid smell of melted rubber and plastic hung heavy in the air. Cleanup efforts are underway, but it may be several more weeks before the space is cleared for use. Additional repairs may be necessary this summer. In the meantime, classes are proceeding in the lower level of the building, and automotive instructors are continuing to review safety protocols with students. The total cost of cleanup and repair is not yet known, but Dean of Students Tiffanie Bentley says it is estimated to be around $400,000. The fire is still under investigation.
Pictured: The charred remains of the Nissan Altima sit in the Automotive Technology Center awaiting a post mortem analysis to find the cause of the destruction. Photos by Troy Hudson.
These interviews are the collaborative work of Dana Abdulhay (vice president of Phi Theta Kappa) and Daniel Gatchell (president of Phi Theta Kappa).
First, let me introduce Phi Theta Kappa to you. It’s an international honor-society club for two-year colleges. We are working on a PTK project called “Mile in Our Shoes,” which also satisfies a requirement for our “Philosophy in Action” class. The project is about giving the under- or misrepresented a chance for their voice to be heard, or anyone else that has something to say and share.
We had about five to eight questions, which we asked face-to-face or sent to the interviewees so they could send back their responses. Also, we took photos of the interviewees’ shoes to symbolically reference the name of the project.
I am Pansexual.
Q. What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person? A. I think the friends/people I’ve grown up with and been around have been the biggest influences on who I am today as a person. Also, being able to connect with others through the internet/media/books have shaped the way I view the world and interact in it. Q. What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours? A. I learned to listen to people with different experiences than me, and found that my love for reading from a young age allowed me to be more open to differences and actually have a desire to understand it, and not just tolerate it!
Q. Have you ever faced difficult challenges, that have prevented you from being who you are? A. I’ve been lucky and privileged enough to be able to be myself in most aspects of my life. My biggest controversies have been within my family for my struggle with mental health since I was a child.
Q. Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice? A. I’ve faced prejudice more as a woman than I have as a member of the lgbtq community personally. I have witnessed prejudice, both subtle and outright prejudice towards various groups. The most prejudice I’ve seen is sexist, racial, and/or against the lgbtq community.
I am Transgender. Q. What are the most significant factors that contributed to where you are today as a person? A. It’s kind of hard to say this early on in my life, but definitely a lot of the people around me, Portland’s accepting environment, and exposure to LGBT friendly people and media. Q. What kind of experiences have you had in relating with people whose backgrounds are different than yours? A. I usually have good experiences with people with different backgrounds. I like to ask polite questions, with their permission, to learn more about their background and how it contributed to the person they are today. Q. Have you ever faced difficult challenges, that have prevented you from being who you are? A. I’ll always be myself, but sometimes it’s hard to present how I want to. In some environments it just isn’t worth it to engage in the conversation of explaining my identity and my pronouns to someone if they use the wrong ones unknowingly. It can be hard to speak up when you don’t want any unwanted attention being drawn to an identity that isn’t really yours, even if it’s associated with you.
Q. Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice? A. Yes, I have witnessed prejudice, through others’ accounts, but also in person and on
my own. The prejudice, when harmful, is usually towards people of minority groups. I have been a victim of prejudice, mainly by way of strangers unknowingly misgendering me, based on what I’m wearing or my general appearance.
Q. Have you ever witnessed prejudice? And whom is the prejudice aimed towards? Have you been a victim of prejudice? A. Yes, I have witnessed prejudice, through others’ accounts, but also in person and on my own. The prejudice, when harmful, is usually towards people of minority groups. I have been a victim of prejudice, mainly by way of strangers unknowingly misgendering me, based on what I’m wearing or my general appearance.
Additional interviews will be published in the next two issues of The Beacon.
With a beautiful location right off Casco Bay, SMCC’s South Portland Campus offers an immense amount of adventures and sights to see, from the everlasting view of the ocean to the ruins of a historical naval base. But how many stop to think about the little ol’ cemetery right next to our dining hall? I did, and my curiosity led me to doing some research.
The Old Settlers Cemetery, also called the Thrasher Cemetery, marks the location of the first settlement established here in South Portland. It is the oldest historical landmark in the city, dating back nearly 360 years! The settlement was abandoned 20 years later due to King Philip’s war, which lasted from 1675-1678. This left the land destroyed and deserted until nine families attempted to resettle another 20 years after. In 1703, those families suffered a disastrous massacre from a local Indian tribe, where 25 of their people were killed and eight were captured. It wasn’t until 1716 that the next wave of settlement came.
There are no records dating back to the first burials on that land. Oftentimes, funerals in the New England region didn’t offer individual eulogies for the deceased, and markers would have been made out of wooden crosses or slates which, through the years, would not have survived. In other cases, the headstones could have been floor level and sunk below the ground by now. We know of 18 legibly marked stones in the cemetery today, but there could be many more.
Out of those 18 deceased, a couple names stood out to me. I found that Mrs. Ann Simonton passed away in April of 1744, which would make her stone the oldest one recorded. She and her husband, Andrew Simonton, were part of the first families to reinhabit South Portland. In the South Portland Historical Society Archive, I came across an inscription list of the cemetery, and on it was a note from the late Mrs. Rosella Loveitt, a history teacher in South Portland who passed away in 2006. She wrote that Andrew Maxwell and Mary White died in 1744 and were buried in that cemetery, though there are no other records of this. She claims the headstones were once there and stated “the oldest headstone marking.”
Another family that stood out to me was the Thrashers. Seven out of the 18 marked stones were part of the Thrasher family and I wanted to know where the Thrasher Cemetery name came from. Thanks to Kathryn DiPhilippo with the South Portland Historical Society, I found out the Thrashers were a significant family at the time.
They owned a lot of land in the area and operated a popular store on Preble Street. From what we can tell, it is possible that the Thrashers purchased the land and buried their family in a pre-existing graveyard. In the 1800s it would have been more commonly referred to as the Thrasher Cemetery due to the eminence of their name at the time.
The full history behind the Old Settlers Cemetery may be lost, but it is certainly not forgotten. As Mrs. Loveitt proves with her note, there is a lot we don’t know about this burial ground, and yet there could be so much to uncover. With historians keeping an extra eye out for the Old Settlers Cemetery, the history behind the beginning of South Portland and the settlers buried there could be revealed one day.
Every Sunday from 10 to 4 p.m., the Art Studio is open for anyone to take advantage of the bright, open space. Plenty of art supplies and materials are available, as are panoramic views of Casco Bay for inspiration. Now the Art Club is looking to bring some beauty and fun to your Sundays with organized activities during these open-studio hours.
Art Club member Calie Soucy believes art can be a powerful team activity. She joined the Art Club this semester and she’s excited about the events the club has planned for the coming weeks: “For our first event next Sunday we’re going to put lights in clear tubes and partly bury them in the sand, so when the tide comes in it will illuminate the water.” She said anyone is welcome to come be a part of the project, and all supplies will be provided by the Art Department.
The Art Club meets in the Art Studio on Thursdays from 12:15 to 1:00 p.m., and the ocean illumination project will take place at the studio between 10 and 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 15.
This story has been updated on April 12, 2018, to add J.M. Zulu’s quote and photo, and to correct the date of the event.
By Rebecca Dow
On Thursday, April 5, Resident Assistant Jean Medard Zulu organized and hosted a Cultural Night in the South Portland Campus – at the Noisy Lounge located in the Campus Center. Participants were encouraged to bring traditional food, wear clothing representing their background, and act out performances that mean something to them, in an attempt to share and celebrate diversity among the crowd. “The goal of the ‘Cultural Night’ was to assimilate all the different students from SMCC to spend a good time together, no matter what their background was in one place.” (J. M. Zulu). Throughout the night, over 100 people attended, densely filling the space provided. Shown below is a photo of Jack Gentempo directly following his mime act. Additionally, we have is a photo of Wazo, a local music group passionate about their work; and Zulu in traditional attire. At the close of the performances, stories were shared about individuals and their respective places of origin, namely those from immigrants who came from countries struggling with civil war and discord.