By Alicia Coffman
The halls of Timpanogos Elementary are usually filled with laughter and smiles. Today, Sept. 22, 2006, the day after a tragic accident, the hallways are silent and the faces blank.
The accident occurred around 3 p.m. outside of the school almost directly after the dismissal bell rang. Esther Polischuk, 47-year-old Provo resident, was picking up a student when she blacked out and hit the accelerator, jumping the curb and hitting a fourth-grade boy and a sixth-grade boy. Both boys were life flighted to Primary Children”s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
Immediately following the accident the Provo School District director of student services, Greg Hudnall, said he sent a crisis team that was able to comfort those students and family who witnessed or were effects by the accident.
“Having the crisis team there immediately after, and talking to the distraught for hours last night, really allowed the school day today to not be quite as hard,” Hudnall said Thursday. “Our crisis team also went to the school today as well, helping and being there for those students who are having trouble dealing with what they witnessed.”
Hudnall said the age of the students does pose an unfortunate obstacle.
“Younger children that are traumatized have more difficulty expressing it,” Hudnall said. “Their language and experience is far less, so we are working extra hard to help them on their level.”
Hudnall said the incident was certainly an accident that could have happened anywhere at anytime, and that it is impossible to protect children from “freak” accidents such as this one.
“The children were on the sidewalk, exactly where they were supposed to be safe,” Hudnall said. “It is frustrating that some things are just impossible to prevent.”
The school chose to not have a collective assembly this morning, but rather allow the teachers and crisis team member”s to address each class individually.
“The teachers know their classes the best and know how to help them individually,” said Diane Bridge, Timpanogos Elementary principal. “Meeting as a whole school may have created a panic rather than helping the students emotions on a one-on-one, more personal basis.”
Bridge said the children understood what happened and a lot of them had even seen it happen.
“The day after is very tender,” Bridge said. “All we can do is provide all the resources available to help with the emotions of the situation for staff, students and parents, and that is exactly what we are doing and intend to continue doing.”
Wendi Christensen, a member of the crisis team, said the overall emotions of the school were those of shock and fear.
“There was a lot of sadness toward all those involved in the situation,” Christensen said. “The hardest thing right now is not knowing if the boys are going to be OK.”
Christensen said everything would return to more of a sense of normalcy if the boys were OK, but the unknown future for the boys is what is mainly haunting those in the school.
“The fear and the waiting is excruciating for all those involved,” Christensen said.