By Mac Cerullo
---- — AMESBURY — Next month, Amesbury Middle School students will be sending love and support to the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School while also paying tribute to the victims of last month’s Connecticut school shootings.
On Monday, Feb. 11, members of the AMS Interact Club, a community-service program sponsored by the Amesbury Rotary Club, will put together heart-shaped ornaments honoring the 26 victims with their names and a message.
That same day, the rest of the student body will take a few minutes during lunch to write little valentines to the students of Sandy Hook to be mailed to Connecticut later in the week.
“What we’re doing is we’ll have 20 red hearts for the children and six white hearts for the adults who were killed in Newtown,” middle school guidance councilor Kathy Scott said. “We’ve arranged a ceremony downtown at the gazebo where there is a tree inside the gazebo, and each of the hearts will be hung on the tree.”
At the ceremony, which will be held at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 13, students will hang the 20 red hearts, while Interact Club advisers and school officials will hang the white ones.
Scott said the idea for the tribute came from Rosemary Werner, the director of Best Foot Forward and the brains behind numerous successful school initiatives, including October’s “Be a Buddy, Not a Bully” anti-bullying effort.
“It’s great for the kids to do this,” Werner said. “It’s something positive, and it’s not your usual Valentine’s Day chocolate and cards thing. It’s a nice idea and I think it says something about our town to reach out to another small town.”
Werner said the gazebo ceremony won’t be political or include any guest speakers. School Committee member Peter Hoyt will serve as emcee to keep things moving, and Werner said each participant will be given a lit candle to hold after placing their heart on the tree.
“There will be a bagpiper playing ‘Amazing Grace’ while the kids are putting the hearts one by one on the tree,” Werner said.
Scott said several local officials plan to visit the middle school on Feb. 11 to watch the students craft the hearts. Visitors will include U.S. Rep. John Tierney, state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer and a number of local public safety officials.
She encouraged all local residents who can to attend the heart-hanging ceremony at the gazebo. For those who can’t, the inscribed hearts, which will be laminated so they can withstand the elements, will remain on display through the end of February,
“So people can come read the messages whenever they can,” Werner said.