HOULKA, Miss. (WTVA) -- It's not easy watching something you love go up in smoke.
"We were walking up, and the smoke was coming out the school," said Houlka resident Sharon Deale, who saw the Houlka Attendance Center catch fire Wednesday afternoon. "All of a sudden, a big burst of flames shot up in the air."
It's even harder watching the memories fade away. "It's very emotional," said former teacher Diane Snow. "It's gonna be strange coming by here and not seeing it."
Perhaps the worst, is watching the history burn in a matter of minutes. "To think, I went to school here," Deale said.
She's not the only one. Since 1935, thousands of students have walked the halls of this building at the Houlka school.
Firefighters said it caught fire around 1 p.m. Wednesday.
"It was just black, pure black smoke coming out from the top," said one witness. "It was just real bad."
Multiple fire departments tried to fight the blaze, but it was just too quick; the building is a total loss.
"It's sad to see because that building is really old," said student Molly Super. "It had our auditorium in it. It had everything we love in it. It's just really sad to see it go. I have so many emotions. I just can't describe it."
Firefighters aren't sure what caused the fire. No teachers or staff were in the building when it started, but there were contractors inside.
Investigators said those workers made it out without any injuries.
In a few months, the building won't be there anymore. There won't be any signs of a fire, but people there said they do have something to hold onto: the memories and hope.
They hope, that one day, they'll rebuild. "I know the people here. We will rebuild."
Superintendent Betsy Collums said they were doing a $400,000 renovation on the building, most of which was covered by a state grant.
She said they're talking to the insurance company to see what will be covered.
Despite the massive blaze, she said school will start next Wednesday.