Village Times Herald

The Errante family celebrates with a cake to mark 10 years since a life-changing surgery. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Ten years ago, at Stony Brook University Hospital, a life-saving operation was performed on a mother of triplets.

Michael, Samantha and Joseph Errante were born on Aug, 29, 2005, in an emergency cesarean section, after it was discovered that their mother, Roseann, had an aortic dissection.

“Technically, they saved my life,” Roseann Errante said. “I would’ve never felt the amount of pain if I wasn’t pregnant.”

The family gathered at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 10, so that the triplets could meet the doctors and nurses that saved their lives, and also have a surprise tenth birthday party thrown in their honor by the hospital.

Roseann Errante said she felt overwhelmed and grateful being back.“We never thought we’d be here 10 years later.”

In 2005, Roseann and Joe Errante arrived at Stony Brook University Hospital because she was complaining of intense chest pains. They had already been sent home from another hospital after being told it was just heart burn, however once the pain persisted, the couple decided to go to Stony Brook.

“They told us ‘we don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you’re not leaving until we find out’ which was so reassuring,” Roseann Errante said.

Dr. Frank Seifert, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Stony Brook, was soon operating on her for an aortic dissection, which is a tear on the inside wall of the aorta. If untreated, this disease can kill within the first 48 hours, and 95 percent are dead within a month.

But before Seifert could begin, Roseann Errante had to undergo a caesarean section, so that the triplets could be born as safely as possible.

“Forget Stephen King, this was much more terrifying than anything else I’d ever heard,” Joe Errante said of his wife’s diagnosis and emergency surgery.

The multi-hour surgery was a success, and while one of the triplets, Joseph, had to undergo two surgeries shortly after he was born to repair a burst intestine, all three babies and Roseann Errante returned home completely safe and healthy.

“I’m sure I speak for all the health care providers, seeing this right now is the ultimate satisfaction. Seeing patients go out and do so well, and then wanting to come back and express their thanks, it’s really heartwarming,” said Dr. Richard Scriven, who worked on the triplets and both of Joseph’s surgeries.

Both parents praised everyone in the hospital for how they treated them during that tough time, from the doctors and nurses to the workers in the cafeteria.

Now, as Michael, Samantha and Joseph turn 10, they have all grown into healthy kids, and enjoy playing sports, watching their favorite television shows and attending camps together, along with their older brother Anthony.

“We like the batting cages, playing European handball, running bases,” the triplets listed off together.

The Errante family resides in Hauppauge. The triplets are about to start their last year at Forest Brook Elementary School, and Anthony is in Hauppauge Middle School.

“I tell her, we’re never going to win the lottery because we used every bit of luck we had right then and there, and it was all worth it,” Joe Errante said.

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Ward Melville fencers pose for a group photo. Photo from Jeff Salmon

By Clayton Collier

Ward Melville fencing, long-established as the powerhouse program of Long Island, is evidently a fast track to some of the nation’s best colleges as well.

Five members of the Patriots’ fencing programs will continue their playing careers at the collegiate level this fall.

Angela Zhang, Carly Weber-Levine, Michael Skolnick, Ilana Solomon and Michael Antipas will attend Cornell University, Stanford University, Vassar College, Columbia University and the University of Notre Dame, respectively, as members of their schools’ fencing programs.

Ward Melville head coach Jeff Salmon, who has brought the program to eight-straight undefeated seasons, County and Long Island Championships, said the five were the most he’s had recruited in an individual year since he started the program in 1999.

“Athletes come in waves and we happened to have a number of stars graduate this year,” he said. “But I am very proud of how the program has developed and extremely proud of the commitment we’ve seen from our athletes.”

Solomon, who will join the 2015 NCAA Champion Columbia fencing squad, said the winning culture of Ward Melville has prepared her for the challenge ahead, come this winter at Columbia.

“The fencing team provides a unique athletic experience, as it is an individual sport, but we need to win as a team,” said Solomon, a two-time All Long Island sabreuse. “This fosters great support from our peers on the fencing team who get to know how each athlete works under pressure, and the best way to help each individual person do the best she or he can in order to win as a team.”

Antipas, a two-time County Champion foiler, who sports a career 117-1 record, said Salmon, as well as his wife Jennie, who recently retired from coaching, have been instrumental in helping him reach this point.

“They’ve pushed me every step of the way, and made sure at practice I made myself better and gave me advice whenever I wanted it and needed it,” he said. “We have worked on technique together and strategies together and even mental toughness and sharpness.”

Saying goodbye to this bunch will be no easy task for Salmon or girl’s coach Alyssa Lombardi. In addition to Antipas and Solomon. Skolnick, Zhang and Weber-Levine also had plenty on their high-school résumés worth writing home about. Zhang, a foiler, sported a career 128-14 record — a program record — while picking up four First Team All-Long Island selections. Weber-Levine, a saber competitor, was 94-4 in her high school career, a two-time All-County selectee and a 2014 Division 1A National Champion. Skolnick, a foiler, described by Salmon as “clutch” and “strategic,” was All-County his senior year and sported a 27-25 record.

Moving forward without these five will be tough for Salmon, but he said there is still plenty of talent left to fill in the gaps.

“I have a few stars, but they’re younger — some of my best fencers aren’t even my seniors,” he said. “I wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year next year because we’re prepared, but we’re definitely young next year.”

Maddie is a 7-year-old lab/collie mix who loves kids and is a laid-back couch potato. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

He’s gentle and kind and loving, Valerie Sanks, of Rocky Point, explains. He’s got a Frank Sinatra debonair-style class, he’s well mannered, good in the car and loves people, especially children. His name is Bravo and, sorry, ladies, he’s not human. But, he’s still a great catch — or should we say fetch — with the capacity to love unconditionally.  He also isn’t taken, and he could be yours.

Brookhaven Town will be waiving its animal shelter fees on Saturday, Aug. 15, in honor of a Clear the Shelter event that seeks to encourage adoptions of the shelter’s many dogs and cats.

Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Joe, a volunteer, hangs out with pit bull/lab mix Huckleberry. Photo by Talia Amorosano

Sanks, a Brookhaven animal shelter volunteer and dog owner, said dogs like Bravo who have lived in the shelter for extended periods of time often have trouble getting adopted because of factors beyond their control, like age, injury and appearance. 

Bravo, a terrier mix, is estimated to be between 7 and 9 years old and has cropped ears.  He was originally adopted from the shelter in 2011, but when his owners fell on hard times in 2014, he was brought back and is now in need of a new home.  “He has every odd against him for getting a home,” Sanks said, but despite this, “he’s very sweet and very mellow.”

Sanks also volunteers at the Riverhead and Southold towns’ animal shelters and described herself as “a firm believer in town shelters.” She referred to the staff at the Brookhaven shelter as “an incredible group of workers.”

“When a dog needs something, people use their own money to buy it for them,” she said. “Town workers, on their day off, come down to the shelter just to walk the dogs.”

While the town and volunteers are trying to get more people to adopt the animals, Sanks said additional volunteers are always needed.

Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano
Bravo, a sweet pit bull/terrier mix, enjoys the outdoors. He was adopted but came back to the shelter when his owners fell on hard times. Photo by Talia Amorosano

“Volunteering is needed immensely,” she said. “Especially when you have a shelter that could hold 80-plus dogs.”

Volunteers spend outdoor time with the dogs, take them on walks and give them treats, but helping out is not limited to direct interaction with the animals.  Sanks noted that even things as simple as dropping off a jar of peanut butter, a toy or a warm blanket or towel can do a great deal to ensure that these animals remain happy and healthy.

“The most exciting day is when we have a volunteer meeting,” she said. “After the meeting is over, everybody goes to get their dogs and I stand in the parking lot and watch all the volunteers come out. It is the most beautiful thing anyone could ever see.”

Brookhaven’s Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is located at 300 Horseblock Road, Brookhaven. For more information, visit the center online at brookhaven.org/animalshelter or call 631-451-6950.

A crime of fashion
Suffolk County police said a 34-year-old woman from Smithtown was arrested in Smithtown on Aug. 9 and charged with two counts of petit larceny. Police said she stole assorted cosmetics valued at $250 from a CVS in Nesconset on Smithtown Boulevard, on April 24 and 27. She was arrested at the 4th Precinct at 10:15 a.m.

Drug seller caught
A 22-year-old man from Ronkonkoma was arrested in Smithtown on Aug. 8 and charged with third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, a narcotic with intent to sell. Police said he was arrested at his home on Portion Road and was in possession of heroin.

Busted with two drugs
Police said a 49-year-old Smithtown man was arrested on Aug. 8 and charged with two counts of seventh-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance. Police said he was arrested on Brooksite Drive in Smithtown. The man was driving a 1996 Lincoln northbound with a flat tire. After cops stopped him, they found him in possession of two drugs — heroin and cocaine.

King of beers
A 55-year-old man from Kings Park was arrested on Aug. 9 in Kings Park and charged with petit larceny. Police said he stole three cans of Red Stripe beer and a package of toilet paper from a Smithtown Stop & Shop at 6:20 p.m. on July 31.

Door damaged
A Rite Aid pharmacy on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station reported on Aug. 5 that a rear door had been damaged.

Fat lip
A man required medical attention at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson on Aug. 9 after he was punched in the right eye and lip, causing a laceration. The incident occurred at 3:45 a.m. by Tommy’s Place on Main Street.

Rear window
A 2006 Nissan parked at a residence on Main Street in Port Jefferson was damaged on Aug. 8, between 5 and 6:30 a.m. The car’s rear window was reportedly broken.

Bang Bang
A Thompson Street resident in Port Jefferson reported on Aug. 5 that between 12:22 and 12:31 a.m., an unknown person was banging a large rock on their 1999 Oldsmobile parked in the driveway.

Back it up
A Peachtree Lane resident in Mount Sinai reported, on Aug. 6, that a person claiming to be from the IRS called their home and said they owed back taxes.

Upsetting
A woman on Tyler Avenue in Miller Place reported receiving numerous threatening phone calls from an upset man on Aug. 5.

Toyota thief
An unknown person stole items, including sunglasses and a phone charger, from a 2010 Toyota parked at a residence on Cedar Drive in Miller Place on Aug. 5.

Bottoming out
The owner of a 2003 Infiniti reported the vehicle’s undercarriage was damaged while it was parked on Tall Tree Lane in Rocky Point on Aug. 9.

Liar, liar, shoes on fire
A 57-year-old woman was arrested in Centereach on Aug. 9 and charged with fourth-degree arson. According to police, the women set fire to several boxes in front of Payless ShoeSource in Centereach and the front of the store caught fire.

Thirsty
An unknown person threw a glass Snapple bottle through a window of a Rosemary Lane home on Aug. 9, between 1:10 and 10:15 p.m.

Unholy
A 2015 Mazda parked at Grace Presbyterian Church in Selden was damaged on Aug. 9, between 7:45 and 9:20 p.m. Police said the vehicle’s front passenger side window was smashed and a purse was stolen from inside.

Zoom
A 2006 Suzuki ATV was stolen from the shed of a Wyandotte Street residence in Selden between Aug. 5 and Aug. 6.

Game over
Suffolk County police are seeking the public’s help in identifying and locating a man who allegedly robbed a store in Centereach last month.
The man entered GameStop, located at 201 Centereach Mall, on July 25, at approximately 8:30 p.m., put his hand under his shirt and demanded cash, police said. An employee complied and the man fled on foot in the shopping center.
Suffolk County Crime Stoppers offers a cash reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest. Anyone with information about this crime is asked to call anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS. All calls will be kept confidential.

DWAI déjà vu
A 29-year-old woman from Centereach was arrested in Stony Brook on Aug. 7 and charged with driving while ability impaired, with a prior conviction in 10 years. The woman was arrested at Stony Brook University Hospital after she crashed her 2004 Nissan into a telephone pole while driving on Nichols Road. Police said she was on prescription pills.

Faucet tapped
Someone stole a faucet from Lowe’s home improvement store on Nesconset Highway in Stony Brook on Aug. 6 at 2:07 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Money, laptop stolen
Someone took cash, a laptop computer and a debit card from a 2014 Jeep Cherokee parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 movie theater on Aug. 5 at 8:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Movie theater mischief
Someone took an iPhone and broke the passenger side window of a 2014 Jeep parked at AMC Loews Stony Brook 17 movie theater on Aug. 5 at 8:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Jeep damaged
Both side mirrors of a 2014 Jeep parked on Old Post Road in East Setauket were damaged by an unknown person on Aug. 8 at 5 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Not set in stone
Someone took a $100 stone monument from a residence on Pond Path in East Setauket on Aug. 5 at 11:30 a.m. There have been no arrests.

Botox lifted
Someone took Botox from a laboratory at on Research Way in Stony Brook on Aug. 4 at 12:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Devil’s in the details
Someone took a car detailing kit from Walmart on Nesconset Highway in Setauket-East Setauket on Aug. 6 at 8:40 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Jewelry, cash stolen
Jewelry and cash were stolen from a residence on Sheep Pasture Road in East Setauket on Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. There have been no arrests.

Supreme Court judge throws out lawsuit against Shoreham solar project

The DeLalio Sod Farm in Shoreham, where a solar panel facility is in the works. File photo by Erika Karp

Brookhaven Town reached the trifecta of adopting renewable energy codes when it embraced Suffolk County’s model solar code last week.

After previously adopting the county’s geothermal and wind energy codes, the Brookhaven Town Board approved the one for solar, which will permit solar energy production facilities by planning board special permit in the town’s industrial zones. According to Suffolk County Planning Commission Chairman Dave Calone, the town is the first in the county to adopt all three model codes.

“Brookhaven is the place where renewable energy is moving forward,” Calone said prior to a public hearing on the matter on Aug. 6.

Deputy Town Attorney Beth Reilly said the code applies to the town’s industrial districts, L Industrial 1, light industry; L Industrial 2, heavy industry; and L Industrial 4. Permitted uses in light industry include banks, agricultural or nursery uses, places of worship, day cares, health clubs, manufacturing within a building, offices and warehouse spaces, while uses in heavy industry include manufacturing of asphalt, cement fertilizers, and chemicals; junkyards; farmers markets and stockyards. L4 districts deal solely with the generation, transmission and distribution of electrical energy.

“The intent of this section [is] to provide adequate safeguards for the location, siting and operation of solar production facilities,” the code states.

The day before the Town Board’s adoption, a state Supreme Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against the town, its planning board and zoning board of appeals that sought to overturn the town’s approvals for a solar-energy production facility in Shoreham.

Eight Shoreham residents listed under the community group Shoreham Wading River Advocates for Justice filed the lawsuit in November against the town entities, along with sPower, a renewable energy company based in Utah and California, and utilities PSEG Long Island and the Long Island Power Authority. sPower has an agreement to sell power generated at a future 50,000-solar panel facility, located on the DeLalio Sod Farm, to PSEG. Many residents who live near the farm have advocated against it, saying the project is too large for a residential area.

Calone said he believes the new solar code, which outlines where the solar arrays should be located, will lead to new projects being welcomed to communities.

The total coverage of solar panels cannot exceed 60 percent of the lot area and freestanding panels cannot reach more than 20 feet above the ground, according to the code, which also adds buffer and setback restrictions. In addition, the code outlines design standards for the solar panels.

Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) thanked Calone and Councilmembers Valerie Cartright (D-Port Jefferson Station), Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point) and Connie Kepert (D-Middle Island), who worked with the county on the code.

“The one thing that is so beneficial is getting uniform code that can apply to all 10 towns so there is no guessing,” Romaine said. “It isn’t different from one town to another. It makes it simple for alternative energy to move forward.”

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Downed trees were a common sight along Route 25A in the Setauket- East Setauket and Stony Brook areas. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The winds have subsided, but Setauket and Stony Brook still have a lot of debris to clean up since last week’s brutal storm sent the North Shore for a spin.

An early morning windstorm made its way through the area early last Tuesday morning, toppling trees and downing power lines. The electricity has since been restored, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island said, and the utility has been providing more than 600 workers to ensure all temporary repairs are made permanent. Most roads have been cleared of fallen trees, and the town has been moving nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material a day amid cleanup efforts.

But there is still a ways to go.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said it could take another two to three weeks for Setauket and Stony Brook to be declared 100 percent passable. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Losquadro said his team buddied up with utility PSEG to help remove trees from roadways while grappling with fallen utility poles and electric wires. Now, he said it’s all about following through on the stragglers.

“This week, we’ve been bringing crews in an hour early each day to continue the debris removal process,” he said in a phone interview this week. “While we have shifted skeleton crews back out to their respective districts, a vast majority of my assets are still deployed in this area doing debris removal.”

Losquadro said the trucks were moving quickly to remove debris and bring it to his department’s Setauket yard to be handled. And he credited a big chunk of his team’s efficiency since the winds came barreling through on his emergency management preparedness.

“We had a plan set up with [the] waste management [department] that they would move their big grinder — the one at the Brookhaven landfill — to an area where we would stage material out of,” he said. “Now, we only have to handle the materials once.”

In prior storms, Losquadro said the town moved waste materials two to three times before they hit a landfill, which slowed down the recovery process and ended up costing more money. But the new plan has made cleaning up more efficient.

On a financial note, Losquadro said the storm will undoubtedly put a dent in his overall budget but his team would remain vigilant in tracking all costs and seeking reimbursement from the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when the recovery efforts conclude.

“It will be a significant number,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s a fact that that area was hit harder by this storm than it was hit by [Hurricane] Sandy.”

The highway superintendent said the hardest-hit areas in Setauket and Stony Brook should be able to fully put the storm behind them in a matter of two weeks or so.

“The fact that this was a localized event did allow me to pour many more assets into a smaller area to get the recovery done faster,” he said. “It also allowed PSEG to do the same thing. I, myself, could not be happier with the organization of my operation.”

University launches geese control program to save Roth

A homemade vessel makes its away across Roth Pond in May. Photo by Phil Corso

An on-campus pond at Stony Brook University has been deemed unsafe, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

The state DEC reported that Roth Pond, a roughly 200-yard body of water in the center of a Stony Brook University residential housing complex, had an excessive amount of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae. It was listed as one of seven locations in the state known to pose the risk of harming anyone who might swim or wade within it, the state said.

“Cyanobacteria are naturally present in lakes and streams in low numbers,” the state DEC said in a statement. “However, they can become abundant, forming blooms in shades of green, blue-green, yellow, brown or red. They may produce floating scums on the surface of the water, or may cause the water to take on paint-like appearance.”

A spokeswoman for Stony Brook University said the campus’s Environmental Health and Safety Department posted blue-green algae bloom advisory signs in several locations around Roth Pond, as recommended by the state Department of Health. She said the university has already taken preventative measures to reduce and eliminate the algae, including diverting runoff, installing fountains to aerate water and implementing a geese control program.

“Roth Pond, a man-made pond, is not used for bathing or swimming,” the SBU spokeswoman said. “Blue-green algae, technically known as cyanobacteria, are naturally present in lakes and streams. There are many environmental conditions that may trigger algae bloom, including nutrient loading, sunlight, calm water and warm temperatures.”

The news of the health risk came just months after the university’s annual coveted Roth Pond Regatta, which tasks students with launching makeshift vessels across the pond to blow off steam during finals week. This year’s event set sail on May 1.

School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences Professor Christopher Gobbler is an expert on blue-green algae blooms and has been working with the university’s Environmental Health and Safety Department to test the water and formulate a plan for dealing with the algae bloom, the spokeswoman said.

The state said anyone who comes in contact with the water would in turn open themselves up to the possibility of nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, skin, eye or throat irritation or allergic reactions or breathing difficulties. In order to avoid such risks, the state DEC advised that anyone who comes in contact with water that appears scummy or discolored should rinse off with clean water immediately and seek medical attention.

Other areas that were also pegged for excessive amounts of blue-green algae included McKay Lake in Calverton, Fort Pond in Montauk, Kellis Pond in Bridgehampton, Wainscott Pond in Wainscott, Agawam Lake and Mill Pond in Southampton and Marratooka Lake in Mattituck.

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Kristen Fraas leaps over the hurdle for Ward Melville. Photo from Fraas

Athletes use different things for motivation. Some are fueled by a desire to be the best. Some are highly competitive. Some are driven by the fear of letting down their teammates. In a sport like track and field, where the main competitor is the clock as much as the opponent, it can be difficult to maintain a competitive edge. But Kirsten Fraas never had an issue with staying intrinsically motivated during her outstanding career with the Ward Melville track and field team.

“What got me out of my bed was the fear of disappointing my coaches,” Fraas said. “I always wanted to do my best because what’s the point of me going to practice if I wasn’t going to put my whole heart into it? I also wanted to be there for my team. I didn’t want to let any of them down, either. I got myself out of bed to be the best I could be and to be consistent for my team.”

Fraas’ former and future coaches said the track and field competitor has a relentless work ethic.

“She has an amazing work ethic,” Ward Melville junior varsity head coach J.P. Dion said. “She came to practice every day ready to work and gave 100 percent every day.”

Fraas was a key member of a team that won back-to-back League 1 championships. She was highly decorated in her four-year varsity career, winning awards for being a scholar athlete and a tri-sport athlete, and she also won the Gold Key award, which is given to athletes who letter in at least eight of the nine seasons between grades 10 and 12.

“Kirsten is highly motivated and she’s a hard worker,” Stony Brook track and field assistant coach Howard Powell said of Fraas, shedding light on what made her an attractive recruit for their program. “I’m hoping that she can bring some of her strong work ethic to our team. I’m looking forward to working with her over the next couple of years.”

Fraas competed in multiple events during high school, including 100 and 400-meter hurdles, the 400 run, and the 4×4 relay. Fraas said the 4×4 was her favorite event. Powell mentioned plans to use Fraas in a variety of different events during her time at Stony Brook.

“I think that the thing I’ll miss most is my team,” Fraas said, reflecting on her time at Ward Melville. “We’re all very close knit and we’ve spent so much time together that we’ve become a family, so it’s [going to] be difficult leaving that part of my life behind.”

Dion reflected on the mark his now former runner left on the highly successful program.

She is a great kid,” he said. “Thanks to her leadership skills, she helped make our jobs as coaches easy. She is a very talented athlete and I wish her the best at Stony Brook.”

Fraas credited her family as being a strong support system.

“It means a lot to me that they’ve invested so much of their time into my success,” she said. “I honestly wouldn’t be where I am without them.”

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The memorial to Pan Am Flight 103 victims at Dryfesdale Cemetery in Lockerbie, Scotland. Photo from Beverly Tyler

By Beverly C. Tyler

One of the pleasures of travel is discovering new things.

One of the blessings of travel is learning how people in other cultures have reacted to tragedy. On our recent trip to Scotland and England, we experienced both. In 2007, we had traveled to England and discovered they were using a new technology called a chip card. In some locations they did not accept our magnetic strip credit card but most places still did.

When we returned home, we talked to our bank and they were not familiar with this new technology.

For this trip we came prepared. Just before we left, our bank finally issued us a card with both a chip and a magnetic strip. That gave us three different cards, all with chips.

We were confident that we were well prepared and we were. The surprise was how easy it was to use the new chip card.

At every restaurant we visited the process was the same. The order was taken on a tablet, the bill was printed and the chip card reader was brought to the table where I inserted my card in the reader and removed it when the screen told me to.

That’s it, everything was done right at our table and I was the only one handling my credit card. The same process was used in stores, museums, pubs and every place we visited.

Scotland has maintained its independent spirit despite the tragedies that are so much a part of its history.

On our guided tour through the Highlands we saw where clan members were evicted from the land they had lived on for centuries. In the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow, we saw a painting by Thomas Faed that dramatically illustrated the breakup of Highland families as many emigrated to America.

In the same museum we learned about merchants in cities such as Glasgow who grew rich by exploiting the many migrant workers who moved there from the Highlands. These 18th- and 19th-century changes dramatically ended forever the traditional Highland way of life.

Our last day in Scotland we stopped in Lockerbie where Pan Am Flight 103 exploded and crashed into homes on Dec. 21, 1988.

At Dryfesdale Cemetery reception and visitors center are panels of information on the history of the small town and the tragedy where 270 people died, including 11 on the ground.

We walked through the cemetery to the memorial, which is quite moving and appropriate for the location. The story of how Lockerbie pulled together is inspiring. The inhabitants not only faced the sudden death of members of their own community, but they opened their homes and their hearts to the relatives of the people who died on PA103, as well as to the officials investigating the crash and the media reporting on the tragedy.

Beverly Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian.

A recent mission trip to Cuba left a mark on a local student. Photo from Thomas Hull

By Thomas Hull

Cuba is one of the most intriguing islands in the Western Hemisphere. The people have almost nothing in the way of material goods, having been thoroughly oppressed by their communist regime, but they are so happy and content with their lives. I got the opportunity to witness all this during a mission trip from the U.S. to Cuba earlier this year.

There is a strong sense of community in the lives of Cubans. To provide one example, the drivers of mass transport vehicles also carry supplies, at no extra charge, that can help fellow Cubans at whatever destination they are headed. The people of Cuba work hard for what they have, and there is a unity among them because of this — even people of different professions help each other. Students who attend college are allowed access to the Internet and have email addresses, but very few others do. The students share their email addresses, sometimes as many as twenty people using one address, so that their fellow citizens can stay in touch with loved ones. I witnessed a very busy Cuban missionary from the opposite side of the island assisting a worker in mowing the lawn just because the worker seemed to be having difficulty. That is such a rare thing to see in most places, but it isn’t strange at all in Cuba.

The average person in Cuba earns the equivalent of $20 per month, which isn’t nearly enough to feed a family, even though many items are cheaper there. At the end of our mission trip, we left all our clothes and supplies to give to the Cuban people. The local church distributed the clothes to families that most needed them.

Usually only people with money or connections own cars down there. The very lucky Cuban families who own cars care for them meticulously and pass them down through generations. Most of the cars we saw in Cuba were manufactured in the United States in the 1950s and were imported before former leader Fidel Castro came into power during the revolution. It was amazing to see cars from my grandparents’ generation in such abundance.

The original intent of my mission trip had been to build a classroom for the Las Palmas Bible Institute, a church camp in Cuba. Since Cuba is a communist country, it has no official religion, but Christianity is very strong throughout the island. The wonderful parishioners shared what little food and supplies they had with our group when we arrived. But the Cuban government decided at the last minute to revoke our building license, an unfortunate but common occurrence, so we spent the two weeks doing small jobs to make the lives of the people at Las Palmas a little easier — we rewired the buildings, repaired roads, fixed the sewage system and painted.

My whole experience in Cuba was enlightening. It was an honor to be able to witness firsthand such brotherhood among people. In nearly all aspects of their lives, the people band together to survive the hardships of life under a tough regime. It will be interesting to see how this unity among the Cuban people is affected by the changes that are soon to come, with the island being opened to the western world.

Thomas Hull is a Port Jefferson resident and rising senior at The Stony Brook School.

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