Written by Dagmar Fors-Karppi, email@example.com Friday, 15 February 2013 00:00
Television crews from channels 12, 5 and 11 came to the Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School’s grand opening of its “Heroic Long Island” museum on Jan. 31.
They came to cover the story of one of their own, foreign correspondent Marie Colvin, with roots in Oyster Bay and East Norwich. The museum, located in the high school library honors legendary Long Island figures now including journalist Colvin, who was slain while covering the Syrian uprising in February 2012. Colvin’s mother, Marie, and sister, Cat, attended the opening.
“They were coming to cover the story of a fellow journalist,” said Rosemarie Colvin, Marie’s mother.
The exhibit is guided by economics teacher Nick Ventimiglia. His 10th grade students, the Hawks of History, use the first semester of the term to do research for the museum exhibit, and the second to mount the exhibit.. Ventimiglia teaches Long Island history through economics. His students recently did one on 200 years of Long Island classrooms. On view was an 1870s teachers register from the Town of Oyster Bay. Oyster Bay Town Clerk Steve Labriola did a presentation for them on town history. His office is in charge of the town archives.
Colvin was killed in an attack by Syrian soldiers, who bombed the building journalists were using as their headquarters in Homs, Syria. They were telling the story of the “uber” attacks on civilians by their own government: Syrians who were asking for freedom in an outgrowth of the Arab Spring movement.
Colvin’s death has been commemorated at ceremonies in London, where she lived when not on assignment for the Sunday Times. Earlier this year she received a Front Page Award presented by the Newswomen’s Club of New York.
Rosemarie Colvin said she was impressed by Ventimiglia, who came to her home twice to interview her and her daughter Cat, and to pick out items for the exhibit.
Ventimiglia said he was welcomed into family kitchens to hear the story of each family’s hero. He said students connect with this living history more than they do with what they see on TV and read in books. The display includes things people brought back from war, he explained.
Among the items is Marie’s “Go! Bag,” with the essentials: a gas mask, a helmet and a black beaded evening dress, size 14. She was tall and thin and would put it over her fatigues when she was interviewing leaders in the Middle East where women must be covered, head to foot. It was like Colvin that her gown was beaded and beautiful, said her mother.
The exhibit label designed by 12th-grader Dori Gronich says: “Colvin’s “Go! Bag.” Resourceful and ready, this carry bag was always packed for that dash for a meeting with a Middle Eastern leader, but when opened, its contents were deemed to be both curious and humorous. As shown here, the black sequent (sequined) evening gown would have been several sizes too big for the rather fit Colvin. It is believed that she would throw this gown over her existing clothing for that drop-of-a-hat meeting within the Islamic world. Also in the bag were a gas mask and the black helmet in the lower right portion of this showcase.
The case in the museum also has the black Burberry jacket she wore; a bronze statue of an eagle presented to the family by American Syrians in honor of Colvin’s work in telling their story. To the left of it is a Sunday Times of London bulletin board with telegrams and notes from colleagues just after the announcement of her death.
Also on exhibit is a book of her stories published in the Sunday Times. Titled On The Front Lines it was compiled by publisher Rupert Murdoch and is available online with profits going to the Marie Colvin Fund at LICF. Money from the foundation has been used for the new Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting as well as a local scholarship.
Cat Colvin said to the students and teachers at POB JFK, “This is such a wonderful tribute to my sister, my hero. One of the things she loved to do was helping younger people. It is important for us that she is helping teach new students.” Cat Colvin told the group about her sister’s newest honor, the new Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting that was to open the next week.
On Tuesday, Feb. 5 Stony Brook University held the opening reception for the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting. Christine Amanapour gave the first lecture for the center that night, to a sell out performance in the Student Activities Center.
Rosemarie Colvin said at the reception earlier, they met people from the new center. “Christiane Amanpour gave $50,000 to the center in Marie’s name. I was bowled over. She kicked off the lecture series. It was all sold out and the venue was huge
“Christiane had a Q&A after she spoke and asked Cat to come up.
The head of the MCCIR, is Ilana Ozernoy, a friend of Marie. Ms. Ozernoy was a middle east reporter who knew Marie, added Rosemarie Colvin. Also attending was a staff member of the Sunday Times of London as well as the paper’s reporter here.
So many journalism students were there. Are there jobs for them? Rosemarie Colvin wondered aloud.
“I was really impressed with Christiane’s gift, it was mind boggling,” Rosemarie Colvin said. She told of meeting Colvin in different places as they both covered the Middle East. She said recently The Times [of New York] has gotten some bad publicity because it refused to publish inexperienced free lancers going into war zones — when they are unpublished and inexperienced. The reason given was they feel that that person is in inordinate danger. The Times was criticized, with some saying that decision verged on censorship.
“That was when Christiane Amanpour asked Cat [Marie’s sister] to come up to comment.” Rosemarie Colvin said the audience and Cat agreed that the decision was valid and Amanpour agreed.
The exhibit also includes tributes to local military heroes such as Medal of Honor recipient Michael P. Murphy of Smithtown. He was a U.S. Navy Seal lieutenant who gave his life attempting to save his squad under heavy enemy fire during the Afghan War in 2005.
The exhibit will also honor local Silver Star and Purple Heart recipients and showcase the pivotal role that Long Island and its residents played during the American Revolution, including the capture of Benedict Arnold, and the story of George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring. Also attending was World War II veteran and Silver Star recipient John D’Amico, 90. His granddaughter said he always told the family stories of the war but never with the horrific tales he could have told them. The exhibit includes NYPD and NYFD first responders to the Twin Towers tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001.
You can support the Marie Colvin Fund by making a donation and/or by buying Marie’s book On The Front Lines from Amazon US. The address is: The Marie Colvin Fund at LICF, 1864 Muttontown Road, Syosset, N.Y. 11791.