An Eruption On Marist Campus

Maggie York, Junior Managing Editor

Every year, the Marist campus is transformed into 79 AD Pompeii, and students gather around Alumni Plaza to travel back in time with Mrs. Frizzle to hear the story of Mt. Vesuvius—and enjoy cupcakes at the end. This year was no different, with students reconvening after the event’s cancellation due to 

COVID-19 last year. 

The eruption of Mt. Vesuvius is coordinated by the Junior Classical League (JCL) each year to recreate the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted. This year, several eighth-grade students, including Flannery Hipp, Jane Bennett, and Colin O’Toole starred in the reenactment. Later in the play, upperclassmen including Patrick Sheesley, Colin Molloy, Liam O’Toole, Charlotte Paine, and Matthew Lydon recited the history of the mountain as told by Pliny the Younger.

      As co-president of JCL, I got to witness a lot of the hard work and preparation that went into the eruption on campus, but to understand more about the building of the physical volcano, I asked Patrick Sheesley ‘23 about his experience.

His favorite part about the event was being able to see the volcano “shoot up about three or four feet, which was a crazy surprise.” adding that “that moment will probably go down as one of the best in my JCL career.” In addition to Sheesley, almost every spectator was shocked to see the towering heights the “lava” reached, seemingly almost as high as the real eruption in Pompeii!

Although the eruption was noteworthy, it would not have been possible without the great preparation that led up to it. The JCL club focused on three aspects of preparation: “the volcano, the cupcakes, and the play,” Sheesley said. He built the volcano himself and set up the reaction, a daunting task to try to 

recreate one of the most famous eruptions in history. 

     Sheesley first gathered materials and built the volcano, which took about five hours to complete. He constructed a “base structure from a two-liter Coke bottle, [covered] it in wood and newspaper for the cone shape’s support,” and finally attached PVC piping on top of the volcano to pour the ingredients into on eruption day. Inside, there was also dry ice with plastic cups on the side that allowed Sheesley to spray water into the volcano to create an illusion of smoke before the actual eruption. 

However, the Mt. Vesuvius eruption is more than just an excuse to make and eat cupcakes. It is the JCL’s first event to kickstart the year of Latin activities. The spectacle helps “convince students that [JCL’s] upcoming events, such as the Readathon, and Cocoa & Carols, will be just as exciting to take part in,” Sheesley said, “and it allows [JCL] to showcase that Latin is not dead,” a common misconception about the language that the club tries to put to rest with these exciting recreations of some of the most captivating moments in history. The goal of events like these is to “educate others while having fun,” Sheesely said. That’s a mission I think the entire Marist community could agree the club accomplished.