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Terrorism and Natural Disasters

Children Eclipsed by Natural and Unnatural Disaster: What They Are Telling Us and What We Can Do
 
Legislative Office Building, Hartford, January 24, 2006

More than 260 students from across Connecticut visited the halls of state government on January 24, 2006, to express how they felt about their personal safety, especially in light of events like September 11 and Hurricane Katrina.

  View some of the students' artwork (PDF)
     
  View some of the students' writing (PDF)
     

The forum, held at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford and organized by three state agencies, cemented Connecticut's place as the only state in the nation that addresses homeland security in the context of children.

With Connecticut Commission on Children Executive Director Elaine Zimmerman moderating, the students presented artwork, essays, and poetry that gave a no-holds-barred look at how they really view their world. Some expressed fear, including Stamford fifth-grader Julia Lucero, who drew a picture of one person holding a gun to another and titled it, "It's A Dark, Dark World." Many, like New London fifth-grader Hariany Lopez, showed deep compassion for the victims of Katrina and other disasters. "If a state, country, or city ever got destroyed by a hurricane," Hariany wrote, "it would mean to me that the hurricane passed by my heart, breaking it in half."

Other students were hopeful, looking to diversity and leadership as tools for improving the world. "We are all different, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't help each other," wrote Coventry fourth-grader Natasha Golovchenko.

Emergency Management and Homeland Security Commissioner James Thomas and Education Commissioner Betty Sternberg were on hand to listen to the readings and view the artwork. Thomas responded in detail about  homeland security to those students who had written Gov. M. Jodi Rell and other state officials regarding their safety. Commissioner Sternberg , visibly moved by the presentations, recognized the strength of the student group as advocates who could help inform her regarding their needs.

"Students reflected concern, fear and a need to know how our state was protecting them against disaster," Zimmerman said. "They were eager to help, saw diversity as vibrant and appealing and sought to be recognized as partners in civic society. Their desire for global peace and call to compassionate engagement created an emerging picture of this generation of students.

The works presented at the forum were chosen from among the 2,300 that arrived in response to invitations issued to all Connecticut schools.

Senate President Pro Tempore Donald E. Williams Jr. of Brooklyn with one of the students who presented, seventh-grader Colin Barry of Brooklyn.
   
Ebony Marie Hunter, a senior at H.C. Wilcox Technical High School in Meriden, is flanked by her teacher, Harriet Linder, and Representative Al Adinolfi of Cheshire.
   
Third-grader Brian Ewing of Windsor Locks reads from his work.
   
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