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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Normalcy slow to return after fatalities

By James Tinley
Register Staff
— Jonathan Law High School officials Wednesday were working hard to restore “some sense of normalcy” to the school after two of their students were killed in a car accident Monday night.
In what school spokeswoman Kathy Bonetti called a “supportive structure,” classes are continuing as scheduled, but grief counselors are on site for any students who need them.
Superintendent of Schools Harvey Polansky was at Law for several hours Wednesday and said the faculty is working to compassionately provide a sense of normalcy.
“There is still sadness, but the kids are resilient,” Polansky said. “And it’s important to note the staff and faculty have responded to this with such care and compassion — it’s been exemplary.”
But some of the more than 1,000 Jonathan Law students will never be quite the same without their friends.
Matthew Zullo, a Law senior, said Tuesday he already had plans with Jonathan Dolceacqua and Shawn Foley, who were killed in the car crash, for the senior traditions of the class prank and “senior skip day.”
“It’s just not going to be the same without Jon and Foley; we had a lot of big plans,” he said.
Foley, 17, and his back-seat passenger, Dolceacqua, 18, died when Foley lost control of his car, sending it skidding into a utility pole in the parking lot of the Westfield Connecticut Post mall. Front-seat passenger Michael Vicino, 16, remained in critical condition at Bridgeport Hospital Wednesday.
Vicino had attended Law, but transferred to Bullard-Havens Technical School in Bridgeport. Police said speed was a factor, and they are investigating witness reports that Foley may have been racing with another car.
“You just can’t put into words the grief our children — our adults — are feeling,” Polansky said. “These are three humans that impacted a lot of lives,” Polansky said. “The impact on a community like Milford and on the micro- or sub-community of Jonathan Law is dramatic.”
A giant banner was put up in a school hallway with pictures of Foley and Dolceacqua so students could write their thoughts and final messages to their fallen friends. The school has no plans for a memorial service at this time, school officials said. A spontaneous candlelight vigil was held at the site of the crash Tuesday night, despite the snowy and icy conditions.
“The one good thing, if there is anything good that can come out of a tragedy like this one, is that it does draw people together,” said Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr., who was at the vigil. “Milford really is one big family, and when one of our citizens needs support, we’re here to give it to them.”
Richetelli added that once all the facts surrounding the accident are discovered the city can then look for ways to “attempt to prevent something like this from happening again.”
A public forum of Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s Teen Driving Task Force was scheduled to be held Wednesday night at Hill Regional Career High School in New Haven but was postponed because of inclement weather. It has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at the same location.
Richetelli said a similar forum may be sponsored by the Milford Youth Services Network.
“We’ve been dealing with this type of unfortunate tragedy for a long time and whatever the legislators decide to do will probably be long awaited for a lot of us,” Polansky said. “Personally, I have a 16-year-old who is going to get his license in a couple of weeks, and he is going to hate me for saying this, but I hope they move the age up to 18 tomorrow.”
James Tinley can be reached at or 876-3030.


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