Mine would not have been the only blood to run cold when videos of students escaping with little more than their lives popped up on screen.
‘The students are safe’, was a comforting recurrent message. Good.
Still, the flames looked too close to the library for comfort. Spare African Studies and Special Collections, at least, my heart pleaded.
The narrow staircase and eerie cavern at its end provided a most unlikely sense of warmth to students who, like me, sought references and stillness found nowhere else in the southern hemisphere’s biggest library.
It was a refuge for seekers of rare insight, a DeLorean for those craving a glimpse of bygone eras.
The librarians of African Studies, Special Collections and Government Publications (I have yet to grow accustomed to the ‘Jagger Reading Room’ moniker’) deserve much credit for enriching so much of my work as a student and as a writer in the UCT Newsroom.
As an Orientation Leader, it was also the place where the new first-years’ eyes would light up the most – “did you say, ‘world’s smallest Bible’?”
To phrase this in the past tense hurts. The true scale of its loss will be processed in pieces; its absence will flare up in moments where, before Sunday’s inferno, it would have marched alongside me on my quest for the day.
A goodbye and thank you to that chamber of treasures would have been fitting.
Temporality, you merciless beast.
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