“Mommy, a girl at my school died today.”

“Mommy, a girl at my school died today.”

Words no parent wants to hear.

The only thing worse would be being the recipient of the phone call telling you that your child, whom you sent on a school trip in faith that the school, in loco parentis, would keep him/her safe, was now dead.

Nicole Suriel was a 6th grade student at my daughter’s school, Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering in Manhattan.  CSS was designed to be an elite public middle/high school serving families of upper Manhattan (north of 96th Street).  The school is in its 3rd year of operation.  Nicole drowned on a school trip to Long Beach, on Long Island.

My daughter is a 7th grader at CSS.  She knew Nicole, though she admits, not well.  I don’t know what they thought of each other.  I can imagine what Nicole must have thought of my headstrong, forceful, alpha female daughter.  I  know I never will.  Whether or not they were close, my daughter is agonizing over the loss of a fellow student, a girl whom she saw every day.

When my daughter called me, in tears, to tell me about Nicole’s death, I already knew.  The principal of CSS, Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera, had already emailed parents about an hour before.  My head was still reeling from that email.  The sound of my daughter’s voice–the sound of her tears–gave meaning to the incomprehensible words of Dr. Maldonado’s email.

I feel so badly for Nicole’s parents.  I cannot imagine being the recipient of the phone call they received, telling them that their daughter was dead.  I never want to imagine this.

As a parent, I want answers.  The questions have been all over the press.  The New York City Department of Education is conducting an investigation.  No one knows yet what will happen to the current administration — or, ultimately, the school. 

But now is not the time for blame and finger-pointing.  Death is random and unexplainable.  As I get ready to attend the wake for Nicole Suriel, I know it could have been any of our children.  I have never attended the funeral of a child, and hoped I never would.  I know I will feel queasy and nauseated as I stand there, trying to maintain my composure while looking at the lifeless body of a child a year younger than my own girl.

I am going to the wake to support Nicole Suriel’s family, and the CSS school community at large.  Today, that is what matters most.

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9 Responses to ““Mommy, a girl at my school died today.””

  1. Linda Says:

    Just to sad for words. I know this had to be extremely difficult to share… But thank you for doing so.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    I was a teacher at Columbia Secondary School and I must admit, it was very difficult for me to take my kids out on field trips. I was not comfortable with the lack of organization and communication between the administration and the teachers. There was no standard protocol, or if there was, the new teachers were certainly not made aware of it readily, nor were we given the time to ask questions. I always wished I could have done more for my class, but I realize now that given the system I was working with, I had no choice but to keep field trips to a minimum and to make sure they did not involve anything risky. I am not writing this out of wanting to point fingers. I am extremely saddened about what happened to this little girl, her family, her friends, classmates, and even to her school. I am only sharing my story so that you, as a parent at CSS, can know the feelings of a teacher that did not make it at CSS because of the system that did not allow us to feel safe taking our kids out into the field. I really hope that those that are still a part of the CSS community can find strength in moving forward and I really hope that the problems that led to this can be pinpointed and resolved without closing down the school and ending the wonderful opportunities that could still be available for these kids as long as the kinks were worked out.

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  4. Saida M Latigue Says:

    You’ve expressed beautiful sentiment on a tragic situation.

    I hope that everyone, the students, parents, faculty & community, can heal and that the school can continue to thrive.

  5. Alicia Says:

    This is so tragic. I remember years ago a woman from my church loss her son as a result of drowning. She had another son close in age to the one that died and eventually had another son. But she was never the same after the loss.

  6. paperpest Says:

    I am curious to know what permission slips look like. In this day and age when scanning documents is so common, surely at least one parent scanned the permission slip they signed.

    I am 67 and I know plenty has changed since I last had to look after a small child. Apparently there no longer is a buddy system in place, when children go on a trip, also, no parents accompany the children. When did trips become administered by “professionals” only?

  7. FC Mom Says:

    Carolyn, I am so sorry for all involved.
    Are you going to go to the funeral? It would probably mean a lot to the parents, although I’m sorry if that is too nosy of me.

  8. PhotogLady Says:

    I’m excited to be finally posting online after all these years. There really is no mystique (sp) about it, is there? I just dropped by your blog and had to write. I’m a recent college grad, journalism major if you must know, and I love the art of photography. I’ve got my site up but it’s nothing to boast about yet. None of my stuff’s been posted. Soon as I figure out how to do that, I’ll spend the day posting my best shots. anyways just thought I’d drop a line. I hope to return with more substantial stuff, stuff you can actually use. SPG

  9. roulette cheat Says:

    Great idea, thanks for this post!

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