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Little Neck, Doug students remember Sept. 11 victims

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Douglaston is not the part of Queens closest to Lower Manhattan, but last week Ground Zero filled nearly every corner of the Little Neck-Douglaston Memorial Day Parade group’s annual Arts & Essay contest awards ceremony.

The communities of Little Neck and Douglaston have played host to one of the largest Memorial Day events in the nation for several years, and the 2002 march marked the parade’s 75th anniversary.

But on the eve of the parade it was the children of Little Neck and Douglaston who got their due as 42 youngsters were recognized Friday by the parade committee for their partriotic artwork, essays and poems.

In years past, students were asked to reflect on historical conflicts, such as the Korean War or World War II.

But nearly every winning entry hanging in St. Anastasia’s Church last week referred to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

From pictures depicting the Twin Towers, the American flag and the raising of the flag at Ground Zero by firefighters, to poems and essays on the country’s strength and unity since the terrorist attacks, each entry focused on the this year’s parade theme: “United We Stand.”

Emily Cheng, a fifth-grader at PS 98 in Douglaston, won the Theme Award with her poem.

“We stand with dignity/Here in New York City/ As a country, we stand together/ And we’ll always stand united forever,” the youngster said as she read aloud from her poem during the ceremony.

This year’s contest was expanded to all school-age children living in Little Neck and Douglaston, and entry information was made available in public libraries in the two communities. Previous contests had been open only to students attending area schools.

Winning writers read their entries while artwork was on display all around the red, white and blue decorated Father Smith Hall at St. Anastasia’s. Each student received a medal on a red, white and blue ribbon presented by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who is himself a veteran.

“It gives parents, teachers and grandparents the opportunity to tell their children who these veterans were,” Padavan said. “It presents a vehicle to instill in them a knowledge and a pride of what this country are all about.”

Grand prize winners Emily Goetz, a third-grader at PS 221 in Little Neck, and Ariel Yadaie, a student at MS 67 in Little Neck, will both receive a trip to Washington, D.C., courtesy of U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside). He will hang their work in his Washington office and treat the winners to lunch in the U.S. House of Representa­tives’ dining room.

While Emily Goetz, 9, declared the contest and the prospect of going to Washington “exciting,” her mom, Anne, praised the contest.

“I think it’s a wonderful event,” she said. “It’s very well organized.”

Lois Toscano of Little Neck, whose daughters Teresa, 8, and Christina, 10, were both winners, agreed.

“They put their hearts into making their posters,” she said. “I really believe all the children who enter should be recognized.”

Winning artwork, essays and poems can be viewed online at www.littleneck.net.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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