New Canaan High School Class of ’09: How Have Your Five Years Been?


It’s been five years, five months, one week and two days since we last were students at New Canaan High School. And in that time there has not been one day that has gone by without me thinking of something or someone from those high school days.

Jackie Hull, another best friend of mine, she having been in my life for 10 years, is someone that I’ve had many great memories with as well. We haven’t seen each other since May when she moved to go work in Boston, so she’s someone I’m looking forward to reuniting with tonight too.—Jes Sauerhoff

Jackie Hull, another best friend of mine, she having been in my life for 10 years, is someone that I’ve had many great memories with as well. We haven’t seen each other since May when she moved to go work in Boston, so she’s someone I’m looking forward to reuniting with tonight too.—Jes Sauerhoff

Tonight, Class of 2009, is our 5-year reunion, and a lot has happened since we left the hallways of NCHS.

To go back briefly to that steamy June evening in 2009, our graduation, I did something that night that many of my fellow classmates may still remember me by: I gave a speech during the “Moments of Reflection” portion of the ceremony, one that resonated with more than just my peers.

Five years later, I’m giving another moment of reflection with this writing here. How far we’ve come, right? Seriously though, I want to let you know how far we have come in such a short amount of time, while mentioning how important the people that I’m reuniting with tonight are.

Thomas Mase (left) and Brandon Sorbara (center) are two of my best friends for going on 20 years. We have made many great memories during those years, one of them being the event pictured, the pre-prom party. Tonight, I am looking forward to seeing the both of them at the class of 2009’s reunion. —Jes Sauerhoff

Thomas Mase (left) and Brandon Sorbara (center) are two of my best friends for going on 20 years. We have made many great memories during those years, one of them
being the event pictured, the pre-prom party. Tonight, I am looking forward to seeing the both of them at the Class of 2009’s reunion. —Jes Sauerhoff

High school is four years—years where there are a lot of different things going on in our lives. I very likely have a different memory of those four years than you all do, and that’s all right—in fact, it’s expected.

Some of my memories of high school include specific events.

The football games, Homecoming dances, baseball games and prom to name just a few. Ours is currently the last senior class whose football team went undefeated. I don’t remember the final score of any of those games, though. That may matter more to the players who were on that team.

However, I’ll never forget that the team went undefeated, personally attending eight of their 13 games including both victories over Darien in the FCIAC and CIAC championship games.

I’ll also never forget the dances I attended. To most I may’ve been the socially awkward kid who stood on the outside of the several mini-groups we all would form at these dances, swaying from side to side. But to those girls who danced with me, you made that socially awkward kid gain a little confidence in his self, even if it was just for that moment.

However, for me, it’s as much about the specific events as it is about fellow Class of 2009 members. These people were the reason to get up every morning. Whether it was talking to me in the cafeteria, working on a class project together, helping someone with an assignment, these people made me feel a part of something.

Now my classmates may not be able to tell you a great deal about me if you asked, because I didn’t let them know a lot. The majority may remember me as a shy, quiet, introverted guy, because I was, and to an extent, always will be. Being that resulted in me not getting to develop incredibly close friendships with more than a handful of people during my high school days.

While I’m more than grateful for those ones that I have today, my biggest regret is not having more. I went to school with a lot of interesting people—with great personalities, much creativity and incredible hearts. Who wouldn’t want to be their friends? I mean, it’s OK that I’m not best friends with everyone, but I wish I knew more of you on a personal level. And I wish the same thing for you with me. Hopefully by the end of this reading, you’ll begin to have that.

For me, it’s been five years of incredible change. And to those who do know me well, you know how uncomfortable I am with that word.

After living in New Canaan for 14 years, New Canaan was all I knew. And while it’s always good to branch out and find new places that help you grow, five years ago I was uncertain that UNH and Durham, NH would be that for me. But it was. My time in Durham allowed me to mature into the person that I’ve become today. That person is more confident in social situations, and has more interests than he ever did before. That person still has the same big heart and still lives by the same morals that he did five years ago, but now approaches life with a bit of a different purpose, which includes getting to know as many people as he can. In fact, it’s a big reason as to why I’m attending tonight’s reunion.

Just 15 months ago though, I honestly wasn’t all that excited about tonight’s event. I was pretty certain that I’d attend, especially if I was still in town like I am, but I wasn’t all that enamored with the concept of a five-year reunion.

And that’s with all that I’ve mentioned earlier about the great memory that high school is for me.

I wasn’t excited because I wasn’t sure of how unique each of our stories would be. I mean, most of us went to college and got a degree. Most of us currently have jobs, although I am not one of them. Most of us are building toward something. “What’s unique about that?” I thought. Sure, we went to different colleges, are working in many different fields, and likely want something that’s a little different than the people who sat next to us at graduation.

But, to me, it was still the same story. To those whose stories are different—15 months ago, those would’ve been the ones I wanted to hear.

Those include the members of our class who have gotten engaged, as some have very recently. They definitely include those who have gotten married because five years ago I never would’ve thought someone would be married by now. But we have a few who are, and at least one with a child. And while I haven’t said any names to this point, in talking about those who are married, I want to give a mention to two of our classmates who have wed each other, Mary Escherich and James Laird. I’ve known Mary for a long time, and am incredibly happy to see her so with James.

Yet, while I’m acknowledging that several people have unique stories, I didn’t think that it would be enough to be excited about tonight’s reunion. Then last October, Griffin Conway died.

Five years ago, I never thought that I would talk about someone in our class getting married. And I certainly never thought that I would be talking about someone who has died.

Before I go further, I must admit that I was not close with Griffin. In the eight years that we went to both middle and high school together, I probably had a dozen or so interactions with him. That was more about me and my quietness though than it was about Griffin. In my interactions with Griffin, as I mentioned in my Facebook status on the day that I found out about his death, he never passed judgment on me. In fact there was one time when he and a close friend of mine stood up for me when people were making fun of me, knowing that my voice wasn’t going to be loud enough to get them to stop.

It is those characteristics and actions that we must remember him by, and in order to carry on his memory, his model.

The day that we found out Griffin had died was a day that our class united. Facebook statuses were written aplenty, a different person every minute sharing what Griffin meant to them. His best friends, his friends, his classmates, all of us came together that day to remember one of ours, a member of the Class of 2009. That day made me both so sad and so proud. Sad because Griffin was gone, but proud because of how much appreciation for his life we all showed. Now, I don’t want it to sound like it took Griffin’s death for me to want to attend tonight’s reunion, because that’s not true. But it was Griffin’s death that made me remember that we are human, not immortal.

That today is all we’re guaranteed, and we must remember to not take today for granted.

In five years we have both gained and lost. I’ve gained friendships from my time in college that I believe will last the rest of my life. I’ve lost both of my grandmothers, less than three years apart. They’re two people who shared with me that momentous graduation day in 2009.

Now they’re with me in spirit.

I wouldn’t have been able to get through those losses without the love and support of my friends, especially the ones from New Canaan. I hope that those who have experienced personal loss, whether it was a sibling, a parent, a grandparent, a friend, anyone, in these last five years, were able to turn to someone who helped you through your grief. And if they’re from New Canaan, it shows that we will always have this place in our hearts, and for more reason than because it’s our hometown.

I feel like one of the few of our class who still calls New Canaan their residence.

I go on walks throughout town at least a couple times a week, trekking up South Avenue; through the woods of Waveny; by the high school; around the neighborhood of Butler, Whiffletree and Danvers Lanes; by Saxe; down Farm Road, past one of my grandmother’s old house; up Main Street; and conclude my route with a stroll through Mead Park.

Each and every time I do, a different memory runs through my head.

Some are specific events, some are specific emotions, and others are just more general ones. I carry New Canaan with me everywhere I go. It helped make me the person I am, the person you’ll see tonight if you’re attending the reunion. If your plans prevent you from attending, I honestly say that your presence will be missed. But I realize it’s very difficult to get close to 300 people in the same place at the same time.

I may’ve been labeled by some of my classmates as the, “quiet kid,” others as the “sports geek,” and many, many girls as “nice and/or sweet.” My classmates weren’t immune to labels either. There was the popular crowd, the jocks, the geeks, and ones that were more specific than that.

Tonight’s not about those labels.

They may’ve influenced who you talked to or hung out with when we were in high school, but we’re not in high school anymore. That’s why tonight, whether you know me well enough or not, I encourage you to talk with me, and to share your story, because it’s you who makes it unique. And I recommend that you do this with everyone else too. There’s going to be over a hundred people there; an open bar; three-hour-plus-long event. There’s plenty of opportunity. Maybe you’ll reconnect with someone you lost touch with. Maybe you’ll make a new friend. Even if you don’t, hey, you tried.

In closing, I’ll take you back once more to our graduation day. At the end of my speech I said six words that, to me, meant as much as anything I’ve ever said.

They were, “I love you all. Class dismissed.”

On that day, especially for those who didn’t know me well, those first four words may not have made much sense. I mean, how can someone you don’t really know, love you? Because I do; because that’s the person I am. Whether you’re my best friend or not doesn’t lead me to discriminate with that. I care about everyone that’s been part of my life at one point in time. You don’t have to be standing in front of me for me to care about you. You could’ve been my partner in music technology class; my lab partner in physics; a group member for an English or history project; or a teammate of mine. Doesn’t matter which one you were, you impacted my life. You took the time to have a conversation with me. You had my back against someone who didn’t.

And even if you were someone who didn’t, I don’t hold it against you. I don’t believe in that.

I believe that the world needs more love, and I’m willing to give it. Now, you don’t have to share your deepest, most personal secrets with me simply because I care about and have love for you. All it means is, if in the future, you need a shoulder to cry on, someone to lean on, or simply some help through a difficult situation, I’m here. And if you want me to be a part of a joyous occasion for you, I’ll be there for that as well. The person you are matters. You impacted my life, I hope to help impact yours.

Thanks to my classmates and friends. Thanks to Maggie Groves for organizing tonight’s event. And in the spirit of reliving moments from my speech, I’ll leave you with some more words of wisdom from dear, old Mr. Feeny. This time they are, “Believe in your selves; dream; try; do good.” Thank you.

3 thoughts on “New Canaan High School Class of ’09: How Have Your Five Years Been?

  1. Jes: I do not know you, but I know your family, including your grandparents. I want you to know that this ‘love letter’ on the eve of your 5th reunion of the NCHS Class of ’09 is one of the most beautiful and meaningful and genuine testimonials to your class, to your wonderful family and to you I have ever read. As the NCHS motto goes: “You are about to become what you are to become.” I think you are well on the way. I believe you are headed for quiet but meaningful greatness.

  2. Following along with what Mr. Haas noted, I had the honor and pleasure of attending NCHS with some of the talented Sauerhoff Family members in the early to mid 1970s. This beautifully sincere and thoughtful article is so reminiscent and in keeping with the uplifting, upbeat, and so kindly polite and courteous style that this stellar family embodies.

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