Written by Rachel Shapiro Friday, 07 May 2010 00:00
The day after Kaitlyn Krokowski died, family and friends started writing messages to her on the utility pole that took her life. They placed pictures, candles, flowers and stuffed animals on and near the pole in Farmingdale, visiting often to pay their respects and remember her.
Recently, the Village of Farmingdale has told Kaitlyn’s mother, Tina, that they have received numerous complaints about the distractions the items on the pole cause and asked her and others to come up with another place to pay their respects.
Kaitlyn died on Jan. 19, 2009 when her car slid on black ice, throwing the vehicle into the pole at the entrance of Waldbaum’s on Main Street in Farmingdale. She was supposed to start classes at Nassau Community College the next day, her mom said.
Krokowski, with her daughter Angela, 25, and son Giovanni, 11 and friends attended a recent Farmingdale Village Board meeting en masse where they addressed the board. “Save the Pole” stickers and “There is no time limit in grief” T-shirts dotted the audience.
The village has discussed with Krokowski the possibility of getting a park bench engraved with Kaitlyn’s name as an alternative location to pay their respects. But friends and family say that doesn’t cut it.
“A park bench, while a nice offer, is impersonal,” a friend said at the village meeting. “If you say the signs [on the pole] are more distracting than a sign that says Waldbaum’s, you need to get your eyes checked,” the friend said to the village board and mayor.
Krokowski, along with her daughter addressed the board in tears, asking them to allow the pole to stay as-is, unpainted with notes to Kaitlyn.
“I have to go to the board with that,” was Mayor “Butch” Starkie’s response.
The removal of everything “is premature” Krokowski told the board and mayor. “This is too new for people right now. They’re not ready.”
“Don’t think we’re not sympathetic,” Starkie told Krokowski. “But this isn’t something new; this has been something ongoing. We’re not professional politicians, we’re moms and dads and we live in our community.”
Starkie told the Farmingdale Observer that he had received numerous complaints about the pole as early as a week or two after Kaitlyn’s death.
“You heard a little bit of a comment but now it’s more of a drumbeat,” he said. “It’s a broad, diverse group of people that have come to me on more than one occasion.”
Starkie told the Observer that this is a very difficult issue and would like to see a compromise between the people who see the pole as a distraction and those who want it to remain available as a meeting place.
“Everybody acknowledges the tragedy,” Starkie said. “I called some of the people who had been pretty adamant and had been reaching out to us on a regular basis and I asked them to please go on the record. No one showed up. It’s such an uncomfortable situation to be in. I was hoping that if the people who had difficulty with it heard the other side, they would be more sympathetic.”
After the meeting, Krokowski told the Observer that Kaitlyn’s friends got a petition together with over 850 signatures in support of allowing friends and family to continue to decorate the pole.
“The bench, they feel, doesn’t represent them,” she said. “They can’t write to her, they can’t bring her something tangible.”
Every time she goes to visit the pole, she and others sing Tim McGraw’s Live Like You Were Dying.
“They feel closer to her, connected,” when they visit the pole, Krokowski said. “This pole satisfies something. “
Starkie said being that it’s such a sensitive issue, yet one that needs to be addressed, he hopes it will be as painless as possible. He said that to lessen the stress of the situation, a businessperson in the Farmingdale community has agreed to pay for the bench, estimated to cost more than $1,600.
“I think it would mean a lot to do the bench at the same time as we start winding down the pole,” Starkie said. “We’re just not going in and removing things.”
Having gone through the tremendous pain of losing her daughter, Krokowski said that she doesn’t mind having the bench in her daughter’s memory but the youths that visit the pole don’t support the bench as an option.
“Those kids make me strong. There is obviously such a profound love from everyone,” she said.