By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6
PICHER, OK -- Thousands of pieces of school memorabilia have been auctioned off in Picher.
After serving the town for generations, the Picher-Cardin School District is permanently closed.
Hundreds of people showed up for Sunday's auction. Many of them were in tears as they described the overwhelming sadness of watching 90 years of scholastic history being sold off piece by piece.
"It's sad to see something so wonderful come to an end. And to know there's nothing we can do about it," said Theresa Bland, Picher High School teacher.
They went room by room, selling off every book, chair and desk.
The Picher-Cardin School District, after graduating thousands of students since the 1920s, is no more.
"It's the end of a family. It's the end of a family here," said Candy Watson, an auction participant.
Picher sits in the middle of the nation's largest superfund site.
The federal government says after decades of lead and zinc mining, the town's suffering from a host of pollution problems.
Both state and federal agencies have been buying out residents for several years. It's a process that has been accelerated after a devastating tornado last year killed six people and left the town in ruins.
"What goes through my heart? It's a shame we're losing a town," said Watson.
Now there are not enough students left to keep the doors open.
"It's very emotional. I can see myself in all these classrooms because I was here 13 years," said Heather Williams, a Picher graduate.
Auctioneers held fire sales in every room, from elementary to high school. For former students, it was a somber scene.
"I referred to it as a funeral. It felt like I was coming to a funeral," said Williams.
Theresa Bland lives in Picher and has been a high school teacher there for a decade.
Now, she's looking for a new job, in a new city. She is sad to know she won't be back in August and won't see her students on a daily basis.
The auctioneers say they expect to raise several thousand dollars. All of that money will be donated to the Quapaw and Commerce school districts.