On Oct. 29, the hallways of Mt. Hebron looked as though they were truly being viewed through rose-colored glasses: students and staff members alike weaved their way around one another clad in numerous hues of pink. However, it was not just a coincidence that so many people showed up wearing the bright color. Their apparel was worn to honor English teacher Ms. Cyndie Fagan, who lost her courageous battle with breast cancer on the morning of Oct. 27.
Ms. Fagan was a valued teacher at Mt. Hebron. Not only was she the English department team leader, but she was also a sophomore class board representative and a graduation coordinator. Additionally, in 2008, she started a stamp collection program in school, the goal of which is to collect six million stamps. Dubbed “Stamping Out Intolerance,” this project was aimed at commemorating the lives that were lost in the Holocaust.
In an interview with The Baltimore Jewish Times, Ms. Fagan said, “Each of these postage stamps tells a story, just like each person who died had a story.”
The article went on to explain that, although anyone is able to donate, students are in charge of gathering and cutting the stamps to be added to the collection. When the goal is reached, the plan is to create a mural with some of the stamps and then have the remaining stamps on display in a Plexiglass casing.
Ms. Fagan was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001.
“She worked every single day through her treatments,” said English teacher Ms. Lisa Vitali. “She never missed a day just because she was sick.”
Although Ms. Fagan went into remission, a more aggressive form of cancer returned two years ago. However, she refused to let it bring her down, taking her treatment day by day. But the chemotherapy she was undergoing at the beginning of this school year weakened her considerably, and she decided to take a medical leave of absence.
“Even though she was home with an indefinite return date, she never stopped thinking about classroom instruction,” Ms. Vitali said. “She made me make worksheets for her kids and helped plan Homecoming. The idea of not returning was never an option for her.”
To honor Ms. Fagan’s passing, senior Kathryn Diaz proposed that students and staff wear pink.
“I just thought that the school should recognize Ms. Fagan and that it would be nice to commemorate her because she was such an influential figure,” Diaz said.
Although the “Pink Day,” was conceived with Ms. Fagan in mind, the sentiment grew as many students who did not know her personally also participated. Many wore pink in memory of their own loved ones who had also been impacted by breast cancer.
Along with the pink apparel, breast cancer pins and buttons made their way around the school.
“What’s great is that, even though some people had school pictures that day, they still found a way to wear pink, whether it be a bracelet or a headband or something,” Diaz added.
“I felt really blessed on that day,” said junior Rebecca Hendrickson, who had Ms. Fagan as a freshman. “With everyone wearing pink, I was comforted because I felt like I wasn’t alone in remembering and missing her. She was someone who was always there for me.”
Whether by wearing pink or by attending her funeral service the Thursday after her passing, people continuously showed their respect for the beloved English teacher. In these acts of solidarity, students, staff and alumni not only mourned the loss, but also celebrated her fantastic life and the impact that she had on the Mt. Hebron community.
“I think it really goes to show how important she was as a teacher and as a person,” Assistant Principal Dr. William Neugebauer said. “We all loved her. She was, is, a truly great person.”
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