EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack River tragedy: Five years later

December 14, 2007

The community reacts


"I think what happened is always going to be a part of the Guilmette School," Sideri said.

For months after the drownings, students filled bulletin boards with drawings and writing for the four victims, bringing students and teachers together.

Since then, teachers and administrators have left, and new ones have started. Many of those who are still there became closer.

"I think for some of the teachers, they developed more compassion for their students in general," said Bill O'Brien former assistant principal who retired in 2005. "They realized that everything is so fragile, that the kid sitting in front of you today might not be sitting in front of you tomorrow."

John St. George was in his first year of teaching at Guilmette in 2002 and had two of the older brothers in his eighth-grade classes, a group hit as hard by grief as the younger students.

He described a "lasting sense of vigilance" at the school. For eighth-graders who write memoirs, the topic continues to be a pivotal and traumatic event in their lives. He said maybe this year, the school should do something in remembrance.

Francis graduated last year, the last of the boys to go through the school. Ivan left the school to go to the Bruce School. Christopher Casado, Victor Baez and Mackendy Constant would have graduated in the next two years if they had survived.

Lessons learned

Up the street at the Boys and Girls Club, hundreds of children pass through every day after school.

During the bustling evening hours, children play in the different rooms and gather in the main lobby to meet their parents. Spanish is heard along with English. Many are the same age as the boys who went in the river that day.

The building is new, but it is in the same location as five years ago, when the seven boys left the club on a Saturday and headed to the river.

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