The Memory of Sense

A scent can be so evocative as to bring back memories of a time long past. Your mother’s perfume, freshly-mowed grass, roasted turkey.


When I was in college, I used a certain shampoo (whatever was cheap at the time). Revlon’s Aquamarine was in my plastic bucket during my sophomore year at Providence College, and the scent of it will take me back. Back to December of 1977, back to a snowy night when students eager to unwind from the rigors of studying for finals let loose in the quad with an impromptu snowball fight.

I’ve written about that evening here and also here. There was a fire that night in one of the women’s dorms, and ten girls died. Those of us who were students at PC remember, because how could we ever forget? I write this post annually, to remember Laura Ryan, Cathy Repucci, Barbara Feeney, Gretchen Ludwig, Jackie Botelho, Sallyann Garvey, Donna Galligan, Dotty Widman, Debbie Smith, and, of course, Katie Andresakes. I write it also to honor the survivors, young women and men who lived with pain and remembrance and even guilt.

In the weeks following the fire, I consoled myself with music. And so the memory is not only scent, but sound.



Hi Martha, It is wonderful that you remember these women! I was at Skidmore when this happened and I remember calling my father to find out if I knew any of those that had died. I felt lucky that my friends, including you, were all safe, and yet felt awful for those that weren’t. I am so glad you keep their memories alive!!

Wow….. I remember hearing about the fire on the news! What a sad evening.
Thank you for remembering the night and the people that were affected.
God Bless

Thank you Martha. Your writing, and the fact that I know you will, brings solace.

Beautiful tribute to the girls. No one ever wants to be forgotten.
Mary Ellen

Sense memories are sooo powerful. I still remember what our house smelled like at Christmas. And what my Grandpa Mac smelled like when I’d sit on his lap. I can hear older songs on the radio and remember where I heard them in my car. I can see the stretch of road or the surrounding buildings like it’s happening right then. But don’t ask me what I had for lunch yesterday. Thank you for remembering these young women, taken at a time in their lives when most people are just beginning to imagine their possibilities. Your words and memories are a great tribute each year.

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