Learning from a Tragedy – October 5, 2011

Last week was a sad week for our community. As many of you already know, a six- year old girl, Sioreli Torres of East Palo Alto was hit by a motorist on her way to school and lost her life. The news was devastating and heartbreaking. There is no other way to say it: losing a child is every parent’s worst nightmare.

While we grieve for the family of the child and for the driver who must carry the burden of this, we also must use the event as a lesson in how quickly something tragic can happen.

Last week, as hard as it was, I talked with both of my girls, Charlotte (11) and Emily (17) about the accident in East Palo Alto and asked each of them to be very careful when they are walking across streets, or in the case of my older daughter, when she is driving.

We should remind ourselves of the same. Speaking for myself, I know that I am not always as mindful as I should be when I am behind the wheel, but, in light of last week’s events, I am rededicating myself to safety. In fact, let’s all take the following pledge: when we drive, we will stay off our phones, drive at a speed that is safe and never, ever, ever text message from the driver’s seat. If something is that urgent and cannot wait, pull off at an exit, park the car and take care of your business. If you are behind schedule and it looks like you are going to be late, then accept that and focus on safe driving. I apologize for preaching but these are issues that need to be addressed.

When we enter areas where children are present we need to step up the level of our awareness. The Beechwood parking lot is a place where we need to be extra careful. Enter the lot slowly, be aware of students and remind your children of the correct way to get out of the car and walk on to campus. (Exit the right side of the car and walk behind the cones). Whenever possible escort your children across the parking lot. I saw lots of parents holding their children’s hands as they came in today. That is a good practice. After dropping your children off, exit the lot safely as well. Too many people drive out of the lot twice as fast as they drive in.

We will emphasize traffic safety with the students in our assemblies and in the classrooms. Children walking to the Science Lab must cross Terminal Ave to get to class. I have been reminding all of them to use the crosswalk, to look both ways and to never assume that someone is going to stop for them. It’s all about being aware of the potential dangers.

Donations to Sioreli’s family can be sent to Zamora Funeral Expenses for Sioreli, c/o Chase Bank, 2300 Broadway St., Redwood City, CA 94063, account No. 980072078. If you are so inclined, you can honor Sioreli Torres this way. You can also honor her memory by making sure that you and your children are being as safe as you possibly can be.

-Mr. Laurance