The audience at Hereford High School's graduation at McDaniel College in Westminster on May 25 was asked to hold applause until the names of all graduates had been read and diplomas awarded.
There were occasional bursts of clapping, some hoots and some hollers.
But these were nothing like the deafening cheers and applause that rose up when the name Samuel Follmer Meister was announced.
Sam, 18, who had been diagnosed with leukemia months earlier, had managed to keep up with his schoolwork and art classes while going through chemotherapy and hospitalizations and today, was graduating.
"I really don't even remember the applause," Sam later said, while sitting on a couch with his twin brother, Will, at their Parkville home.
Their mother, Laurie Bacon, a teacher at Roland Park Middle School, said graduation night was one she'll never forget.
"It was stunning," she said. "It was obvious everybody was rooting for him and the noise continued the whole time he made his way across the stage. It lasted forever."
Although they live in Parkville, the boys attended Hereford Middle School and Hereford High School because at the time, their father, Chip Meister, was teaching at Hereford Middle. Chip Meister left that job when the twins were sophomores at Hereford High, but the boys were allowed to finish high school there.
The fraternal twins — Sam looks like the Bacon side of the family while Will takes after the Meisters — quickly found their niches at Hereford High School.
Will participated in most school theater productions and joined the Youth Theatre of Northern Baltimore County. He also was a member of the school's Chamber Choir.
Sam loves art and found himself taking as many art classes as he could. His favorite is to do do black and white sketches but he also dabbling with watercolor.
Summer to 'get used to it'
Then last June, during a visit to their parents' alma mater, Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa., Sam had trouble keeping up with the tour guide. He could barely climb steps. By the time they returned home, he had a fever of 103.
It took two weeks for blood work to confirm the culprit: leukemia.
Within hours of the doctor's phone call to report the diagnosis, Sam was admitted to Sinai Hospital's Pediatric Oncology department. For the next seven days he was administered chemotherapy.
"Right off the bat, I thought it was better (that) I was sick in the summer. It gave me time to get used to it," Sam said. "I knew senior year would suck, but I didn't want people to change what they thought of me because I was sick. I didn't want to be 'the kid with cancer.'"
Will said he initially "freaked" when he heard the diagnosis was leukemia.
"But I wasn't really worried about Sam," he said. "People kept asking me how I was doing, but this was about Sam, not me."
Sam said he enjoyed some "cancer perks" at Hereford High, like permission to wear a hat or bandanna to cover his bald head. (After losing a lot of hair after chemotherapy, Sam decided to shave it all off.) He also got a hall pass so he could catch a nap in the nurse's office whenever he felt tired.
Sam had to be hospitalized several times during the boys' senior year. He missed one of Will's concerts, but made it to the last show of "Damn Yankees" in which his brother had a lead role as the devil, Mr. Applegate.
Sam's leukemia is in remission, but he will continue with cancer treatments until October 2014.
Will plans to attend classes at Community College of Baltimore County and hopes to transfer to Dickinson College. He wants to pursue acting.
Because of his ongoing treatment, Sam is staying close to home, too. He is enrolled at Towson University, one of his college choices because of its excellent art department, even before he was diagnosed with leukemia.
"Other than my hair, which came back differently, leukemia hardly impacts my life now," Sam said.
"I'm not even sure if I'll talk about it at college."