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A Pearlington journey

(This letter was originally sent to Jeff Leahy, head of Colorado Rocky Mountain School, and the Valley Journal.)Dear Editor:On March 3, 2006, I had an opportunity to revisit Pearlington, Miss. I traveled to Pearlington with my wife, Vickie Smith, the emergency department director of Valley View Hospital; Lisa Wagner from Crystal Dreams B&B in Redstone and a member of the Carbondale and Rural Fire Protection District; Stephanie Schilling, a member of the Church at Redstone; Bruce Gledhill, pastor of the Church at Redstone; and Tom Dalessandri.When we arrived in Pearlington, we met 41 students from Colorado Rocky Mountain School, three of their teachers and two parents. For the next six days our group worked hard with the group from CRMS. Each member of the group helped the residents in Pearlington in many different ways.I am sure that most of you have heard or read some very poignant stories about the residents of that area and their experiences. While I, too, can tell about my experiences with Pearlington, I would like to tell about my experience with the CRMS students and staff. There are several things that I would like to point out. First, when we drove though Pearlington I could tell that the students, staff and members from our group were overwhelmed and dismayed by what they saw. The destruction is unbelievable, which I am sure that you have all heard. In comparison, I was uplifted at the same sights, for I had seen what it was like immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Significant progress has been made in Pearlington thanks to many people from across the nation, including many residents of the Roaring Fork Valley.My remaining observations deal with the CRMS students, staff and our group. First, the people that live in Pearlington are very brave people, but they have suffered life-threatening experiences and have lost everything they own. The CRMS students quickly developed a positive relationship with these people. All that has occurred since Hurricane Katrina hit has overwhelmed these people. The CRMS students quickly made friends with the people, developed an understanding of their emotions and needs, and helped them in a multitude of ways. The students help was not just physical but as caring people offering support in a variety of ways. I also observed that the CRMS students were hard workers. They worked all day, in filthy conditions, doing hard physical labor. When they completed one job, they looked for and asked for another job. They did this with a very positive attitude, which all of the adults observed and commented on. The next thing that impressed me was that not only did they work hard, they worked smart! The CRMS students looked at a difficult job they had never done before and figured out a great way to accomplish the task. Those of us who have supervised people truly appreciate an ingenious worker. These students filled that bill exactly.Finally, I must say something about the three teachers: David, Dana and Caroline, and the two parents, Betsy and Hilary. They were also a delight to work with. They motivated the students, fed them and then danced and sang with them in the evening when the work was done.My experience with the CRMS students was very positive for me. I have great respect for them and the CRMS program as a result of working with the CRMS students in Pearlington.Carl SmithCarbondale and Rural Fire Protection DistrictCarbondale


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