Mother Nature helps students pay tribute to 9/11 victims

By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A tribute to the victims of September 11 will bloom outside McKinley Intermediate School, thanks to students who spent the morning of Oct. 20 lovingly planting daffodil bulbs in the garden.

With their shovels ready, students and teachers prepare to dig trenches in the soil outside McKinley Intermediate School to plant daffodils in the garden. Pictured (left to right) are Sarah Lopez, Marisol Brito-Lopez, Jason Placencia, Waidy Ortiz, Byron Lopez, and Peter Lopez. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

With help from Mother Nature, the daffodils will bloom in the spring and serve as a reminder that out of great tragedy, beauty can rise.

Dozens of students, like Jason Placencia, dug into the soil to help plant nearly 3,000 daffodil bulbs, one for each of the victims killed in the terror attack on September 11, 2001. “It means a lot to me to do this. It’s important to remember the victims,” said Jason, who was two years old when the attack took place.

The Saturday morning planting session outside the Bay Ridge school, at 7301 Fort Hamilton Parkway, was part of the Daffodil Project, a citywide September 11 remembrance spearheaded by the non-profit group New Yorkers for Parks. “Our goal is to create a living memorial to the victims,” Executive Director Holly Leicht said.

New Yorkers for Parks provided the McKinley students and their teachers with the shovels, gloves, and other gardening tools needed for the task. Councilman Domenic Recchia Jr. (D-Gravesend-Coney Island), chairman of the Finance Committee, provided the funds to purchase the 3,000 daffodil bulbs.

New Yorkers for Parks started the Daffodil Project back in 2001. The daffodil was chosen as the flower to represent the project because it is the official flower of New York City. In the 11 years since the project began, millions of daffodils have been planted by 40,000 volunteers in parks and in other public places.

Under a new initiative, New Yorkers for Parks will team up with one school in each of the five boroughs to plant daffodils this school year. McKinley Intermediate School was chosen as the Brooklyn site, Leicht said.

“They already have a strong connection to September 11,” she said, adding that the tragedy is studied by students as part of the curriculum. The school also has an impressive September 11-related mural on a wall on the third floor, she said. The mural was created by students under the direction of art teacher Tom Buxton.

Councilman Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge), who came to the planting to congratulate the students, said it was fitting that a Bay Ridge school was chosen as the Brooklyn site for the Daffodil Project. “September 11 had a real impact on this community. We lost a lot of residents that day. More than 100 families had a relative or someone close to them who was killed,” he said.

Borough President Marty Markowitz also came to the school Saturday morning to wish the students good luck as they got to work.

Jennifer Hicks, a science teacher who serves as an advisor to the school’s Garden Club, said the Daffodil Project will be an important educational tool for the students. “They’ll learn how nature works,” she said.

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