The students of Farmingdale High School should be playing a joyful, celebratory song today, as they march in unison at a band camp in Greeley, Pennsylvania and enjoy the camaraderie and community that such gatherings bring.
Instead, the melody we hear in our hearts and minds is a mournful one that comes when tragedy strikes.
Thursday's horrific bus crash, which took the lives of Farmingdale High School's director of bands and a retired social studies teacher and injured dozens of students, some critically, has shattered the school community. But all of Long Island has been devastated by what Gov. Kathy Hochul called a "day of terror" — and all of us are now grieving, together, for lives lost and innocence destroyed.
Despite our differences, Long Island responds on these occasions like a single community, a small town, where we are all connected, where we know and care for one another, where we are all tied to our schools and where our students are our pride and joy. That's particularly true within the broader band network, as the region's band members and directors often compete against and perform with one another, forming tight bonds.
And when something awful happens, we come together. In the hours after Thursday's bus crash, Long Island mobilized. We gathered on social media to mourn, to offer support, to highlight that we are all #DalerStrong. And we gathered in person, literally lighting the way for the surviving students and staff as they arrived home.
Now, we must continue to be there, to lift up and rally around the Farmingdale community: Around the students who experienced unspeakable terror and now face the demons of recovery ahead. Around the freshmen, new to high school and to the band, their enthusiasm now darkened. Around the students on the other buses and those who weren't on the trip, with their own fears and sorrow. And around the parents, faculty and staff, always the children's best cheerleaders, who now will need support themselves.
And we continue to mourn for the two teachers — band director Gina Pellettiere, 43, and chaperone Beatrice Ferrari, 77, who were killed in the crash. Over decades of teaching experience, they touched thousands of lives, from students and alumni who learned from them to the families and colleagues who loved them.
We've all had high school clubs, teams and groups that are such formative circles in those critical years. For some, it's a sports team or an acting troupe, a math team or chess club. For others, it's the band that becomes their home, their family, where they make music together — and so much more.
Now, we're all part of a larger Farmingdale band family. Together, we are hurting, as the loss is so heavy, the grief so deep. But eventually, also together, we will heal, so that music can play once more.
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