Marian Central Works on Becoming Normal After Damaging Lightning
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
September 19, 2019
WOODSTOCK—On Sept. 16, the Marian Central Catholic High School office was busy as office staff continued discovering what was and wasn’t working after a Sept. 9 lightning strike at the school. 
The staff had been allowed in at the end of the week prior and had checked if computers were working, but didn’t realize that some other electrical systems and equipment had been damaged. One remarked to a student that the process he requested had to be done “the old-fashioned way” so it would take a bit longer.
Senior Brogan Pivnicka came in to broadcast the morning’s prayer, lead the Pledge of Allegiance and make birthday and other announcements. Fortunately the public announcement system was up and running fine.
“I went golfing a lot,” Pivnicka said of his unexpected four-days off. He added that, “It was nice to have time to work on college applications and stuff.”
Mercedes Franco, 9th grade, said she “hung out with friends” during the hiatus, and agreed that she was “a little bit” happy about being back.
Following a specially-scheduled morning Mass with Bishop David Malloy, Vito DeFrisco, interim superintendent at Marian, gave the bishop and Michael Kagan, interim director of diocesan Educational Services, a tour of the damage caused by the lightning bolt strike on the school’s chimney. 
Chunks of the brick chimney caused three big holes in the roof and 30 smaller ones, DeFrisco said, adding that crews removed about 30 feet of the chimney to bring it down to a safe level after the strike.
“You can’t even make this stuff up,” DeFrisco said, adding the chimney “basically exploded.”
In what is now the “infamous” room 204 nearest the chimney, floor fans run to continue drying out what had been  inches of water inside. 
Half of the lights are on the floor as are some of the ceiling tiles, and boards stretch from the floor to hold in place a few strips of sagging steel.
The lightning left light fixtures hanging down in the next-closest classroom, 205, and room 206 had parts of its light fixtures hanging from their wires. Lights in room 207 were intact, but had no power, DeFrisco explained. 
Room 204 had been the location of the Alumni Office, he said, but they had moved just this year to another part of the building, leaving that hardest-hit room empty.
Other aspects of the strike were fortunate, most importantly its timing. 
The lightning hit the chimney at 4:30 p.m. Most students and staff were gone, and those who were there quickly and safely evacuated.
Still, it will take some work to get all systems up and running, fix what was damaged and open a few locations still cordoned off, including the student entrance. 
The main gymnasium just off the student entrance, however, can be reached by students through the auxiliary gym.
The re-opening Mass was held in that main gymnasium.
After hearing all the damage reports, “We thought, let’s do it,” Bishop Malloy said of the morning Mass, reminding students it would bring them “the very presence of God in our hands, on our tongues ... . He will come here in the simplicity of this setting.”
He spoke to students of the “deeper lesson” for them, of how with “all of our knowledge, all of our science (and) our control (of things), our human efforts can only go so far.”
The event, he said, is a reminder “we’re not in control of this world.”
In addition to a greater awareness of the power of God, “we are reminded to be thankful ... even in the challenging moments,” he continued, pointing in particular to the fact that “no one was hurt” and the damage “was not worse.”
He expressed thanks to first responders, to building and utility experts, to “flexible” teachers and administrators who “had a lot to do to get us back on track.”
The storm reminded us, he concluded, that “even as earthen vessels, we are loved” with a love that is near, that can help with “every problem, with every challenge (and) test ... you always have the grace that Christ gives.”