Sullivans school opening full of sunshine after delay from storm
September 4, 2003
Not every cloud has a silver lining, but the massive storm cloud that was Typhoon Etau turned out to have an interior of pure sterling for Yokosuka’s Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Mack and his wife, Tasha.
As they — and more than a thousand others — watched Tuesday morning, their daughter, Riley, 10, voice soaring, calmly stood before the assembled Sullivans Elementary School and delivered the national anthem.
“I’m not an emotional guy,” Mack said, “but it almost brought tears to my eyes. I just looked at her and it was like, ‘That’s my kid!’”
A brass quintet from the base band was supposed to provide the music for the traditional opening ceremonies, said Dave Russell, Sullivans principal, but when storm damage postponed the school’s opening for a week, a scheduling conflict prevented their appearance.
Then music teacher Andre Elliott thought of Riley, who’d been in the school singing club he sponsors. Saturday, he bumped into the Mack family in the Yokosuka commissary and asked if she’d be willing to perform.
Riley didn’t hesitate, her father recalled. “She loves to sing — and I don’t know where she gets it. No one else in the family can even carry a tune.”
Tuesday, he carried a tape recorder. “My daughter, singing the national anthem,” he said. “I just think that’s pretty neat. Of course, I may be biased.”
The entire day was pretty neat, Russell said. Of course, as principal of a school that a fortnight ago sustained $700,000 in damage, he, too, admits he may lack absolute objectivity, but “it probably was the most relaxed, best start of school I’ve ever seen.”
The usual type of opening-day ceremonies — a welcome by Yokosuka Naval Base commander Capt. King H. Dietrich and a flag-raising by Cub Scout Troop 3 and Girl Scout Troop 33 — seemed to assume special importance after the weeks of night-and-day cleanup and repairs that preceded them, Russell indicated. “Schools need children,” he said. “Today we got our children back.”
And many of Sullivans’ more than 1,200 pupils appeared happy to be there, said Rita Gumban, a Sullivans office automation assistant. Her daughter, Jascha, 5, who started first grade Tuesday, was saddened by the delay, Gumban said. “I had to promise her that in a week, she could go to school.”
If Jascha learned what they were doing back in kindergarten, however, she may have wished she wasn’t in first grade. Kindergarten teacher Wendy Rose guided her young charges through baking gingerbread men, Russell said. “Then they ate their feet so they wouldn’t run off,” he said. “They brought me one this afternoon,” he said.
A bonus he added, was that Rose began the lesson by teaching the kindergartners how to wash their hands, so when the gingerbread men emerged from the oven, they could be eaten without worrying about germs.
Even the ending to Russell’s day couldn’t be better: “Twelve hundred kids got on buses or walked home, and no one got on the wrong bus,” he said.
Of course, one person’s silver lining is another person’s tarnish. Francis Castillo’s 10-year-old twins, Ashley and Kimberly, were among the fifth-graders who, until Sullivans’ repairs are finished, will be attending their first few weeks of classes at Yokosuka Middle School — where a brother also attends.
In one of those “Aw, Mom!” tones, Castillo’s son asked, “Is my sister going to be around? And for how many months?”