‘How do we rebuild a sense of community?’ A Brooklyn school seeks to find joy and connection after a devastating year
Milagros Reyes’s husband was in the first wave of New Yorkers to succumb to the coronavirus, taking his last breath in their East New York apartment. His death in April 2020 left Reyes alone with her two children, ages 3 and 10.
Reyes called 911 to retrieve her husband’s body, which was quarantined in a bedroom. But hours passed and no ambulance arrived. When the parent coordinator of her fifth grader’s school, P.S. 89, called to check on the child’s absence, Reyes explained the dire situation, setting off a series of messages to the school’s principal, district superintendent, anyone who could help.
Eventually, after 24 hours, paramedics arrived.
“For a young child, it’s a trauma. It wasn’t easy,” Reyes said in Spanish. But she is striving to move forward, leaning on her support system in the school community. “We’re fighting still.”
The grim situation was not the only time a P.S. 89 family struggled to have a relative’s body removed from a home. Those crises served as an early warning of the devastation many members of the community would experience and foreshadowed the ways in which the school would respond with an all-hands approach.
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