Minnehaha Academy community hosts pillar raising one year after deadly explosion

The pillar raising at the Minnehaha Academy campus Thursday allowed for time to look to the future and to a new school.

“That pillar is a testament to this community’s faith and commitment to not just bringing back the building, but our school entirely back to life,” said Minnehaha Academy Board Chairman David Anderson.

Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris added, “We remember our physical and emotional scars.”

Thursday’s event was also a moment to look back, reflect and honor those hurt or killed in a deadly explosion at the school last summer.

“I knew I was coming to tragedy,” said Former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges. “What I did not know that day was that I was also coming to a miracle.”

Hodges was on hand as the Academy raised its first pillar of the Upper Campus School, which was destroyed one year ago to the day in a deadly natural gas explosion.

“I kinda got welled up a little bit,” said Greg Kosch of the Minneapolis Police Department.

First responders, including Minneapolis Police Officers Kosch and Dean Millner were among those who risked their lives saving others a year ago. They were singled out at the ceremony filled with song and prayer.

“It came over the radio from officers on the other side of the building that gas was building up in the basement and yeah, you kinda get flashes that this is it. This is the end,” Kosch said.

Minnehaha Academy President Donna Harris said, “I don’t think going through something so horrendous will ever leave my memory. It’s seared in my memory particularly this week. The memories of the blast pop in my head a lot.”

Harris was carried to safety by emergency responders during the incident. She repeated the mantra that helped her community through the last year.

“Together, we rise,” she said.

The shiny new academic building is set to open in the fall of 2019. It will attach the two wings of the century-old school that survived the explosion.

“We’ve grieved a lot,” said Jason Wengschlag, the Minneahaha Academy Upper School Principal. “Now, it’s about the future. I think it’s really important to help people, the neighbors, students, alumni, so see OK, there’s a plan. We’re moving forward strong and looking forward. Not looking back, but to still remember.”