Kids' garden honors victims
Pupils say they're feeling sad and disappointed about the tragedy.
By AMANDA C. DAVIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Casey Snyder isn't sure how the United States will bounce back after Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and the Washington, D.C., area.
But what the 9-year-old does know is that he's proud to be an American.
He and 14 classmates in Dan Cokrlic's fourth-grade class at Horace Mann Elementary School recently got a lesson in faith, loyalty and compassion.
The class put the finishing touches Monday on Memorial Garden, a patch of mums planted by the pupils to remember those who died when commercial aircraft slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Somerset, Pa.
Planting began last week, and pupils laid mulch Monday, watered plants and erected flags in the garden, located in Pride Park, at the end of a courtyard behind the Austin Avenue school.
Pride Park contains new playground equipment and a little schoolhouse. Both were funded by a grant, with help from the local community.
Cokrlic said a sign for the garden will be made and hung from the chain-link fence that borders Pride Park.
Children's feelings: Lakayla Cameron and Jameer Green, both 9, said they feel for the many children whose parents died in the attacks.
"This is just a thing to say we care about them," Lakayla said.
Casey, who said he put a U.S. flag in one of his drawers at home, added that he's glad to be an American citizen but thinks about the people who are alone because they lost someone that day.
Michelle Mayle, 9, said she's upset such a thing could happen in the United States, and Courtney Wiseman, 9, said she's disappointed that terrorists "would do that to our country."
All 15 pupils said they've been sad at times since last Tuesday's tragedy. Most said they've been praying more, too.
Delicate balance: Cokrlic's class watched some news coverage of the situation last Tuesday, but he said he worried afterward whether the kids saw too much.
On one hand, he said, pupils need to know what's going on, especially since the day of the attack is now an integral part of our country's history.
On the other hand, some of the images captured on film could be damaging, especially to young people.
"They need to know about it, yet they need to know in a delicate way," he explained.
The flower bulbs were donated by a local business, and Cokrlic said mums were chosen because they are the hardiest of flowers.
In a poem he wrote, called "Our Memorial Garden," Cokrlic says the flowers' "strength and ability to endure symbolizes the American people."
Though the flowers wilt each year when temperatures cool, Cokrlic said they bounce back the following year, greener and fuller.
The poem ends, "Like the mum, we too will reach our full splendor once again."
Cokrlic heads up the school's summer gardening program funded by a grant he secured. Each participating pupil maintains his or her own vegetable garden, and as a group, they planted three flower beds this summer.
Positive activity: Cokrlic said Memorial Garden will help him and his pupils deal with negative feelings they may be having about terrorism.
He said he didn't realize how emotional the situation is for him until he heard from his son after the attacks. His son was supposed to be on plane to Europe when the devastation began to unfold.
"Just like every American, our hearts bleed for what's going on," Cokrlic said.
He added that the tragedy has already served to unite people, because when it comes down to it, we're not blacks, whites, Hispanics, he said, "We're Americans."