EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack River tragedy: Five years later

December 14, 2007

The community reacts

Paula Sideri came across an essay about Mackendy Constant in a stack of memoirs written by her eighth-grade class this year.

The student wrote about what a joker Mackendy was, always having fun. The student also wrote about Mackendy’s wake after the 8-year-old drowned in the Merrimack River five years ago.

Three of Mackendy's friends drowned with him; three others survived.

"The boys' memories are very much alive,” said Sideri, who teaches at the Gerald A. Guilmette School where five of the boys went. "The children in my class now were in third grade at the time. That's the age some of the boys were."

Five years of students have graduated since the drowning and the survivors are no longer at the school; when the December days turn dark and cold, and the Merrimack River begins to freeze, people in this close-knit community think of the boys.

They remember the sirens of the rescue trucks, frantic phone calls and emergency room visits.

They remember the hundreds of people who came to the boys’ funerals.

They remember the boys themselves, who were known as good friends and kids, tragic heroes that died only because they wanted to help each other.

At the Guilmette School, Boys and Girls Club and St. Mary of the Assumption Church, that day and its effects linger.

"They are always remembered," said Rev. Jorge Reyes.



Lasting vigilance

The Guilmette School stopped having an annual ceremony to remember the boys. It was too hard for the students, especially Francis Spraus and Ivan Casado who were in the river, but did not drown. Ivan's younger brother, Christopher, was one of those who died.

A plaque dedicated to the boys hangs in the gym; students, along with teacher Jane Roth, planted a peace garden in front of the school | a quiet spot with a bench. Teachers look out for the garden | they shoo away kids who stand in it and replant the flowers every year.

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