Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Paying Attention in Class Saved Family’s Life

Wednesday, June 1 was like most end-of-the-school-year days. The classroom was hot and stuffy, as was the air outside, thick and heavy with moisture…telltale signs of a storm brewing. Nothing about the day seemed out of the ordinary. Strong thunderstorms are not uncommon when hot, moist air co-mingles with a cold front. It was just a typical New England spring weather day.

Nearing the end of the school day, the 3rd grade teachers in 9-year-old Megan Frisella’s class had completed the day’s lesson plan. Being conscientious teachers, they opted to introduce a new lesson and selected a study plan about wind. In the remaining minutes of class that day, Megan and her classmates learned about the power of wind to foster energy, and they learned about the dangers of wind in hurricanes and tornadoes. Little did anyone know — or even conceive of the probability — that this last minute lesson would save a family’s life.

A few hours after Megan returned home from school Amy Frisella, Megan’s mother, heard that a tornado may be headed for their hometown of Sturbridge, MA. Megan spoke up and told her mother, “My teacher said you got to get away from the windows and go to a safe room.”

Now, the last tornado to hit in Central Massachusetts occurred in 1953, and so Megan’s mom was bracing for nothing more than a severe thunderstorm. However, having listened to her daughter talk about what she learned in school, Amy decided to treat the situation like a fire drill.

She took Megan and Megan’s 6-year-old sister Hailey, their 2 cats and the hamster, to the “safe room” in the basement where there were no windows, just as Megan had been taught. Less than a minute later, the house shook.

“It was just like a movie,” said Megan’s mom. “It sounded like a train.” Twenty seconds later, covered in soot, the Frisella’s emerged from the basement to discover their home had been severely damaged by a tornado.

The Frisella family is alive and unharmed today because of several factors…teachers who embraced their role as educators, who taught an extra lesson rather than blowing off the remaining minutes of the class period; a young girl who paid attention in class and who listened to her teachers; a parent who listened to her child and who recognized the value of a teachable moment.

At KidsTerrain, we believe that children, families, and teachers are life's greatest treasures. And we believe in the value of listening and talking to kids. On Wednesday, June 6, teachers talked, a child listened, a child talked, a parent listened, and a family’s life was saved.

Written for KidsTerrain, Inc. Reprinted here with permission.

1 comment:

  1. I think it was the summer between third and fourth grade when this happened, so that would have made it third grade when one of our classes was a health and safety one.

    As my mom worked the evening shift at Delco-Remy (division of GM here in Anderson, IN), I was in my dad's care during that time, and we enjoyed lots of fun activities together with one of the summer ones being to go swimming at a place called Ryan's Lake.

    This was around a half-hour's drive from home, and a small admission fee was required to spend all or part of a day there.

    We had just gotten into the water when I noticed lightning in the distance. I told him that we needed to get out of the water because I had just seen lightning, and we might get struck by it, if we stayed in the water.

    Daddy wasn't too concerned about this, reassuring me that this was happening several miles away and, likely, wouldn't even be traveling our way.

    However, I stood my ground telling him that I had learned in health and safety class that swimming when there was lightning close enough to see it was dangerous.

    He said that he didn't see any reason to leave the water but he would if I insisted. He said that we would sit in the car and wait to see what happened rather than giving up on the day. After all, we had just gotten there and had already paid our admission.

    We walked back to the car and got in. There were people still swimming, and he said that he was afraid that we were losing time out in the water over nothing, so was I sure that I didn't want to go out there and get back into the water until there was actually a storm right over us.

    I told him that would be too risky and reminded him that I had learned this at school--so he humored me and went along with my wishes to sit in the car.

    Soon, we saw more lightning--and, this time, we could hear thunder. Soon, some raindrops began to fall on our windshield. Then more raindrops, lightning, and thunder showed up, and we realized that it was time to go.

    While we were still on the road to exit the grounds of Ryan's Lake, we saw the hugest lightning bolt that I had ever seen. It looked to be at least half as wide as our car and went from way up in the sky down to the ground!!!

    Daddy told me that I'd turned out to be right, and that I was a smart little girl to have paid attention in class!!!