Trona buries time capsule at football field

By PRISCILLA BENADOM and STEPHANIE SMITH

News Review Contributors

On Feb. 6, two time capsules were buried at the Trona High School Football field.

Stephanie Smith pondered the idea of the time capsule on her back porch while drinking coffee and watching the sunrise touch the mountains in first light with her husband, Dwain Smith, Jr.

She felt that a time capsule would be a way to time travel to the future — a testament that the Searles Valley community to the southwest of Death Valley was more than the calamity of the earthquakes of 2019. That we are a community of characters and individuals with their own stories and triumphs of the year.

They proved that they can come together as a unified whole where everyone does truly know everyone else. They are Trona Strong.

Encouraged by her husband’s enthusiasm, Smith took the suggestion to Priscilla Benadom, program coordinator of the Trona Community Senior Center.

After the earthquakes, many people in the community needed a way to heal, and the time capsules seemed to be a good solution. The project turned out to be more than that. It was a way to remember the year 2019, both the good memories and the bad ones.

Benadom asked the Senior Center board if they would be willing to sponsor the project, and the vote was unanimous. Smith and Benadom then went to the school and presented their ideas, which were well received.

After some discussion, it was decided that two capsules would be created: one for the school to be retrieved upon the graduation of the current kindergarten class in June 2032 and one for the community to retrieved on July 4, 2069 (the anniversary of the 6.4 earthquake that shook Trona).

Teachers gave students various assignments, which were collected in December for the small school time capsule.

Smith spread the word about the community capsule and alerted the press. She, also, collected items at her home and at the Senior Center.

At the burial ceremony, Trona Joint Unified School District Principal Joseph Wolfe greeted students from both the elementary and the high school, as well as community members. During his opening remarks he noted that a joint assembly had not taken place in more than 40 years. He also reminded students that the capsule contained artwork and assignments that had been turned in before the winter break.

Acting Superintendent Suzette Davis spoke briefly and told students that remembering today would be important. She then (with a show of hands) asked which students were 12-14 years old and remarked that when the community capsule was opened, they would be about her current age.

Stephanie Smith then spoke about the reason the capsule was so important to her and how the idea had come to her.

With the support of her husband, Dwain Smith, Jr, and her good friends Dan and Kat Lyman in the audience, she said, “We were talking about all the good things that we hadn’t talked about because of that earthquake and I was thinking that when they talked about that earthquake in history they are going to talk about the damage done, the buildings down, what we lost and what we gained. But not who we were and what else had gone on that year. I thought that it would be something to share, all of us as a community.”

Priscilla Benadom then spoke about the importance of preserving the past and learning from our elders. She also handed out letters to kindergarten teachers Cheryl Bridges and Rachael Rosoff and Principal Wolfe containing instructions to ensure that the school time capsule is retrieved as planned.

She also gave letters to Emerald Smith, Erik Benadom and Cristofer Hisey to ensure that the community time capsule is retrieved in 50 years.

In an interview after the event, Emerald said, “I’ll be back here in 50 years to dig it (time capsule) up with my bare hands….”

A final letter was given to the Searles Valley Historical Society to be placed in the archives for future reference in the event that the letters for both capsules are lost.

Members of the ceremony then buried the time capsule with a final word from Benadom,

“We have had a unique moment in time as we witnessed, yesterday, today and tomorrow all at once.”

Story First Published: 2020-02-21