Wyckoff elementary refurbishes memorial to school community members lost on 9/11

Lynn Bruggemann  Wyckoff Suburban News

WYCKOFF — A peace pole and garden created as a place of remembrance and hope in the aftermath of 9/11 was refurbished and rededicated during a Flag Day ceremony at Calvin Coolidge Elementary School.

On June 12, students, staff and parents gathered around a flagpole and the renovated peace pole and garden situated on the front lawn of the Grandview Avenue K-5 grade school to sing patriotic songs and learn about the significance of the memorial.

Students waving flags in honor of the event. Photo by Bob King

Students waving flags in honor of the event. Photo by Bob King

“Today we continue a special tradition at Coolidge school and celebrate Flag Day, but this year we are here to rededicate our peace pole and peace garden,” principal Robert Famularo said. “In the days and months after the attacks on our country, parents and teachers came together to create this special space for our school, our community and our nation.”

The blue wooden pole contains the words “peace,” “compassion,” “hope” and “humanity” and a plaque with the names of Richard Rosenthal, Craig Silverstein and Ray [sic — Roy] Wallace, who were killed in the terrorist attacks. A second plaque bears the name of Shari Ann Kandell, who attended the school from 1979-1984 and was also killed.

Both Rosenthal and Silverstein had daughters in first grade at the school; Wallace’s wife Loren was a speech teacher.

“I remember teachers kept coming into my office and then finally someone told me what had happened,” said Rosenthal, who retired in 2007. “I called Richie’s office and heard his voice on the voice mail, but then there was nothing.”

Rosenthal said she attended the ceremony to see her “Coolidge family” and admire the refurbished pole that symbolizes “happy memories.”

“This place and the people were my family for 25 years and this garden and pole has always been heartwarming and a place of honor,” said Rosenthal.

Susan Wallace, who was unable to attend the rededication, said she looks at the pole and feels “peace” when she walks her dog past the school.

“There is something calming when I see the pole,” said Wallace. “It makes me think about how supportive and safe the school was for me and my family after 9/11. Coolidge symbolizes safety to me.”

Wallace admits to being “upset” when she noticed the pole was removed, unaware of the refurbishing project.

Famularo said almost 14 years of weather had taken its toll on the wooden pole and landscaping.

“It was our obligation to beautify this place and the right thing to do out of respect for those who lost their lives,” said Famularo.

The Student Council held a used book sale and contributed $1,200, which was matched by the PTO to help fund the $5,000 restoration project.

Mike Tode, a parent of kindergartner Ryan and a landscaper, donated materials and labor.

“What this place symbolizes, it was important for me to do what I could to make it look right,” said Tode.

In early 2002, third-grade teacher Nellann Berg and Mary Lyons-Kim collaborated to fundraise and design a peace garden modeled after one at the Upper Saddle River library.

“I am very patriotic and I wanted to do something to honor the two families who lost their fathers and our colleague who lost her husband,” said Berg. “I wanted a special place for our students — a place where you could go and think in a quiet way.”

Lyons-Kim said her son Connor was in first grade and personally felt “helpless” after the attacks.

“I didn’t know the other families at that time, but wanted to do something,” said Lyons-Kim. “This garden united the families and school and offered hope during a very tragic time.”

She said students purchased $1 flags and families donated funds to raise $5,000 for the project. In addition, the fifth-grade Class of 2002 donated a marble bench.

“This is about being respectful for people who lost their lives,” said fifth-grader Mason Manteau.

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