By Kelsey Durham
Students and teachers at PS 79 in Whitestone gathered last week to pay their respects to Annamarie Tromp, the preschool teacher who was killed in a car accident in Flushing New Year’s Eve.
In an emotional ceremony to honor the beloved educator, poems and songs were shared by those who were close to Tromp, who spent 17 years as a teacher at the same school, at 147-27 15th Drive. The auditorium walls were lined with paper hearts each student in the school decorated to show their love for Tromp and to express how much she would be missed.
Paula Marron, principal of PS 79, said the school was shaken when they learned of Tromp’s tragic and sudden death, and many of the young students she was teaching still do not fully understand what happened. Marron said the voluntary after-school ceremony was planned as a way for students, faculty and parents to come to terms with the loss of Tromp and to remember the time they were able to spend with Tromp.
A car driven by an unlicensed driver collided with Tromp’s vehicle at the corner of 33rd Avenue and 172nd Street in Flushing on New Year’s Eve, police said. The 24-year-old driver was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of vehicle, the Queens district attorney said.
“When it happened, we first had to make sense of it and then a lot of parents wondered, ‘What am I going to tell my 4-year-old?’” Marron said. “This was important for closure. She gave her heart and soul to PS 79 and to every single one of us.”
The ceremony featured a short montage filled with photographs of Tromp and her students over the years, and 14-year-old guest singer Sarah Kaplan performed two songs, “Colors of Her Life” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” in honor of her. Stacy Kim, a fifth-grader who was in Tromp’s class when she taught second-grade, held back tears as she read aloud a poem she wrote for her former teacher, titled “She Is Not Gone.”
Tromp’s sister and two sons were also in attendance and wiped away tears as former students and co-workers continued to take the stage and deliver kind words about her. Louisa Anastasi, Tromp’s sister, thanked everyone for the outpouring of love and support she said has touched her family in the time since her sister’s death.
“PS 79 was her world, her home and she loved her babies,” Anastasi said. “This means so much to my family and it’s touched my heart. I know she’s looking down on us and smiling and saying, ‘Look at my babies. Look what they did.’”
Before the ceremony ended, Tromp’s family was presented with a book of drawings and writings complied by students at PS 79, all in memory of the nearly two decades she spent there.
Chris Tromp, one of Annamarie’s sons, said he and his family were moved by the ceremony and said he knew his mother would be, too.
“She’d be smiling,” he said. “She’d be happy. Everyone is together.”
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at email@example.com.