By Kathianne Boniello
On Sept. 11 an eerie silence hung over the playground at PS 31 in Bayside as the school’s staff kept students indoors after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Nearly two weeks after the Twin Towers collapsed, the students packed the Bell Boulevard playground Monday in what Principal Angela Monda called a celebration of unity.
“It doesn’t matter where we come from, we are all one family,” Monda told the children before they launched into a musical rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance. “We are going to be the wonderful community that we are.”
Some 600 children stood in the bright sunshine of the playground waving American flags and singing “God Bless America,” “The Star Spangled Banner,” and “America the Beautiful,” led by music teacher Alexandria Dunne.
The ceremony ended with the planting of a memorial dogwood tree, donated by Keil Bros. florists in Bayside.
Many younger students wore paper hats which they decorated in red, white and blue. Artistic work by the students, including poems, and drawings written after the Sept. 11 disaster, hung on the fence around the playground.
Some of the pictures, drawn by students in crayon and colored pencils, depicted the attack on the Twin Towers by planes.
One drawing, of a single American flag on a white background, had a message.
“I feel very sad about the people who died,” the student wrote. “So I pray for them with this flag because I care about them so much.”
School District 26 Superintendent Claire McIntee congratulated the students after the half-hour program and told them, “I’m very proud of you.”
PTA member Nicole Zizelis said “this is our tribute to all the volunteers, the Fire Department, Police Department and Emergency Medical Services volunteers that helped and gave their lives.”
“It’s about national pride, and unity,” said Pat Miner, another PTA member. “It’s about personal loss and the communal loss that we’ve all felt.”
Monda said PS 31 has also raised more than $1,000 in donations since it began a fund-raiser Friday and helped to collect supplies for rescue workers in the days after the attack.
Monda said Monday’s event was a joint effort between the school staff, parents and community.
“Some of the kids are scared,” she said in an interview. “It does touch them. But I think they need to understand that we are all together, standing tall and strong.”
Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.