Understanding an ‘Unpredictable’ life


News staff writer

April 12

A group of sixth-graders at Wy’east Middle School was studying people going through difficult times earlier this year when they hit on a unique way to explore the theme further.

The students in Nancy Behrman’s advanced reading class decided they wanted to do more than just read about others coping with hardship.

“We decided we wanted to do a play about somebody going through a hard time,” said sixth-grader Noel Mellor. The students chose to focus on Hood River native Noah Smith, who was severely injured in a 2002 car accident that left him paralyzed.

The Wy’east students e-mailed Noah in California, where he now lives and attends Project Walk, an innovative rehab facility, and asked him if they could use postings from his Web site for a self-directed play about him.

Noah agreed and the students have been working for nearly two months to create a script and produce the play. They will perform their play, titled “Unpredictable,” on Friday night in the Wy’east cafeteria/auditorium.

The students came up with a unique approach to the play by having students sit on stage and read excerpts from Noah’s Web site postings. Interspersed with the readings are specific scenes performed behind a transparent screen, where shadows create the characters being portrayed — who range from Noah’s mom, Marilyn, to President Bush.

In this way, the students re-enact scenes from the accident itself as well as portray issues brought up by Noah in his writing, such as as pleas for expanded medical research into finding a cure for paralysis.

Sixth-grader Malika Reynolds is the play’s director. Everyone in the class is involved in the production. Some are actors while others are in charge of lighting, sound and props.

“It’s really been their own deal,” Behrman, their teacher, said.

Noah Smith was unavailable for comment this week because he was in Washington, D.C., for a rally and gathering of Cure Paralysis Now, a grassroots organization advocating greater medical research into curing paralysis.

Noah’s dad, John, said he was “impressed” with what the Wy’east students were doing despite having no personal connections to the Smith family. He called the upcoming play a “selfless tribute to Noah.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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