By John Burton
FAIR HAVEN – From the pens and imagination of children comes help for those in the Two River area most affected by Sandy.
A homework assignment for last year’s fourth grade class at the borough’s Knollwood School, 224 Hance Road, and the inspiration of a student’s mother, has become a means for the class’ 24 students to assist those who were hard-hit by last October’s storm. Teachers Kate Mills and Tara Barnett had assigned the kids to write a poem about how they got through Super Storm Sandy and its aftermath. And through the efforts of MaryAnne Kanacki-Strulowitz, whose son Michael was in the class and composed one of the poems, the students’ work became a book, “Hurritcane Sandy: A View from Room 101.” The book is now being used as a fundraising tool for the Sandy-related charities Sea Bright Rising and Hope for Highlands.
Kanacki-Strulowitz said she came up with the idea when she read the poem her son Michael composed for the assignment. “When I saw it I wondered what the other kids wrote,” she said. And when she viewed some of the other works she was struck by their honesty and perception in dealing with a difficult time. “They were raw and unfiltered,” she said.
Cate Hewson, a 10-year-old included her poem expressing ther feelings about the storm’s effects: “First the lights blinked/Then we saw a flash/ We had lost our power at Last!/ We knew this was bad./ Many people are sad, because they lost the things they had./Sandy was vicious./ Sandy was mean./Sandy was the worst thing I’ve ever seen.”
The works are “An honest look at the hurricane, what it was like through a fourth grader’s eyes,” thought Mills.
Upon seeing her work in a volume, Cate said, “It feels good that people get to read what I wrote.” She added she hoped readers would appreciate what she was trying to say, which is “How sad we felt that other people lost their homes.”
“It was such a confusing time for children,” Kanacki-Strulowitz said, as they and families tried to comprehend what was going on around them. Fair Haven fared reasonably well with the storm, but had to deal with about 14 days of no electricity and school was closed for that period. But in the surrounding areas, there was real loss and hardship, and children, as these poems indicated, understood what others were going through, she said. And as Fair Haven has always been a giving community, Kanacki-Strulowitz said she saw an opportunity to help others and give a little additional lesson for the kids.
With parents’ and teachers’ consent, the school’s art teacher, Rob Zupko and graphic artist Cominika Klausova fashioned the hardcover 8 ½ by 11-inch volume featuring the poems, handwritten by the students, and in many cases their accompanying artwork.
Byrn Eustace, one of the students, called her poem “a short memoir,” and one she “wanted people to know a lot of people weren’t lucky with Sandy. They had damage and maybe they had flood,” she explained.
The books cost $24 each with the proceeds going to the two charity organizations; 100 copies have been sold since they first became available last June. The donations will be in the name of each of the 24 contributing students, Kanacki-Strulowitz said. That way it would “let them enjoy their celebrity for a while,” she said.
“Hurricane Sandy: A View from Room 101” can be purchased at River Road Books, 759 River Road, or by contacting Kanacki-Strulowitz by email firstname.lastname@example.org.