Mother shows up to visit memorial tree for her daughter at West Chicago High to find it was chopped down
The unannounced removal of a memorial tree at West Chicago Community High School is opening old wounds for the friends and family of a young woman who died more than 15 years ago.
Amanda Meiborg was a valedictorian at the school in 2002. But her life was cut short in October 2003 when she died from a rare form of cancer. She was 19.
A tree was planted in Amanda's honor years ago on the west side of the school, and the spot served as an official memorial with a plaque at the base of the tree.
"As Amanda was cremated, this memorial stone and (autumn blaze maple) acted as the official site for family and friends to pay their respects to Amanda over the years," according to a letter from Amanda's friends and family.
But when Amanda's mother, Lee Ann Meiborg, visited the memorial site on June 3, she discovered it had been removed during construction of an addition to the school.
"I'm sitting outside WCCHS where Amanda's tree USED to be ... crying," Meiborg wrote in a message on Facebook. She said the removal of the tree "cuts another tie to Amanda."
On Monday, officials with West Chicago High School District 94 confirmed the tree was removed and most likely was destroyed in the process.
"The tree is gone," Superintendent Douglas Domeracki said.
Domeracki said the tree wasn't moved to another spot because doing so would have been costly. "I can't even tell you if it would have been possible to relocate the tree," he said.
He said he doesn't know why the family wasn't notified.
Katie Kammes, Amanda's best friend, says administrators owe Amanda's friends and relatives "an explanation and sincere apology in regard to their desecration of her living memorial."
"By digging up this tree they have unearthed our grief," Kammes said in an email.
The memorial plaque was found and returned to Amanda's mother after numerous calls and emails to school officials. Friends and family members say they're still waiting for a response from the school about what happened.
"We demand an apology from the school administrators involved with this decision, as well as a plan of action for replacing Amanda's Memorial on school grounds," they wrote in their letter.
Kammes also has started a GoFundMe page to help raise money for the memorial.
Domeracki said officials are willing to meet with Amanda's mom. But he said it may be difficult to find a new memorial site on campus because of the construction, which is expected to continue for another two years.
"Anything is on the table," he said. "However, nothing is permanent in and around a school because land and space get repurposed and facilities grow and expand all the time. So we need to be sensitive about where, if there is going to be any memorial plantings, they go."
When asked about the call for an apology, he said: "I'm sorry they feel this way. But at the end of the day, the construction at the school was discussed at length."
Still, Domeracki said he sympathizes with the family's loss.
"I would certainly hope there's some way that they can memorialize their daughter in a way that puts closure to everything for them," he said, "and keeps their daughter's memory alive."