Schoharie County

Flood of emotion fills new book

A new, 216-page book put together by nearly 100 students is part of a project aimed at giving young

Raindrops and tears fall around an eye 11th grader Mikaela Cipolla painted in the aftermath of disaster.

One raindrop surrounds a broken heart, a dollar sign fills another. A home with an “X” through it fills a raindrop, while a pile of rocks fill another.

Cipolla’s artwork depicts the heartache that followed destruction, stress over money lost in the storm, sadness wrought by the condition of flood-wrecked homes and “the bad feeling that you get in your stomach from all the symbols together.”

The Gilboa-Conesville Central School student’s rendering adorns the cover of a new, 216-page book put together by nearly 100 students as part of a project aimed at giving young flood victims an outlet to express the wide array of emotions they felt at the end of last summer, turmoil many people don’t experience in a normal lifetime.

The school’s community gathered in the auditorium Tuesday to recognize the work, “The Eyes of the Storm,” a work that encapsulates poetry, drawings, paintings and other artwork that served as a bit of therapy for students and staff in a district that saw no mercy from Tropical Storm Irene.

Board of Education member Peter Fox said Tuesday’s celebration was nearly canceled, as the community continues to grieve the loss of students Jeffrey Jones and Brittany Paes, who were killed in an ATV accident last week. But officials decided to go forward with the recognition ceremony in an effort to bring some closure to a school year that started with disaster and ended with tragedy.

“Tonight, we need a celebration of our spirit and our strength. Tonight, we will not pause. Tonight, we will go forward,” Fox said.

Superintendent Ruth Reeve said numerous individuals and groups helped bring the project to fruition. She said the book will forever cement the emotions and thoughts borne by students in one place.

“They have witnessed the disaster that nobody wants to witness,” Reeve said.

The book was a huge undertaking, Reeve said, but it was seen as a therapeutic way for students to face their emotions.

Each of the works, photographed and included in the book, brings a “powerful message,” said art teacher Susan Kliza, who organized the effort throughout the school year. Each piece includes an artist statement students used to describe what they saw when the worst flood in decades wreaked havoc on their hometowns.

The artwork speaks volumes about the memories etched in the students’ minds.

Seventh-grader Henry Kimball colored a drawing of the Blenheim Covered Bridge, which was picked up and shattered during flooding. Cole Fancher depicted cracking roads, breaking houses and felled utility poles.

Ninth-grader Jesse Kohler colored clouds and teardrops of rain and explained how 22 of 42 homes in a mobile home park were claimed by the flood.

Alex Jeffries drew a scene he remembers from his home during the flood — it shows homes floating down a flume of brown, churning floodwater.

“It’s shocking to come up against the real thing,” said teaching artist Bertha Rogers, who helped guide students’ work during the year.

Cipolla, whose art adorns the book’s cover, said Tuesday she thinks the project was a helpful idea, and it enabled her to get all her feelings out.

“I think it was really good for everybody,” she said.

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