The festivity was missing from this Valentine’s Day party.
There were candy hearts. The children were smiling. But it was too quiet for a room full of fifth-graders.
This was a going away party. Students said goodbye to a friend and classmate who was returning to Israel this morning.
Omri Talmor has lived in Arizona for the past few months. His father had a six-month assignment in the area.
Six months went quickly.
The students didn’t talk much about Omri’s departure. When they spoke, it was quietly.
The Val Vista Lakes Elementary School students were worried about their friends’ return to Israel. They have given a lot of thought to what could happen.
Jeremiah Kaya has watched the news.
“I’m afraid that Omri will be hunted down by a terrorist,” he said. “I think something might happen and Israel might get in a war.”
It was hard to say goodbye, and even harder knowing the friend is bound for a war zone. The children are sad, scared and worried.
“I’m worried that they might get bombed and hurt real bad,” said Katie Payne.
Teacher John Mass told his students to cherish the time they had together.
Omri exchanged addresses with his classmates. They plan to write long letters to keep in touch. While the rest of the school remained in class, Mass took his fifth-graders to the playground.
There were only 15 minutes left in Omri’s last school day here. As they lined up, someone asked, “Why are you leaving so soon?”
No answer was expected.
Then they played soccer, Omri’s favorite. Boys against girls. Jermiah gave Omri a high-five after a play. It was a rousing game, played all over the empty field. But through the laughter, the children were quiet.
Katherine Bareiss, Gilbert Community News, February 15, 1991