Books for Brooklyn links schools after Hurricane Sandy

Port Coquitlam artist Diane Moran is linking  Westwood elementary school with a school in Brooklyn, NYC that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy. - DIANE STRANDBERG/THE TRI-CITY NEWS
Port Coquitlam artist Diane Moran is linking Westwood elementary school with a school in Brooklyn, NYC that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

"I'm fine. I live in Red Hook. It was windy. All you could hear was wind blowing. Then I looked out the window. I saw the water rising. I was so scared I wanted to cry really bad. I saw the cars swimming. Then all of a sudden the light went out."

— letter from student at Patrick F. Daly school in New York in a pen pal exchange with Westwood elementary in Port Coquitlam, written on Dec. 20, less than two months after Hurricane Sandy flooded the school.

Diane Moran thinks the way out of a disaster like Hurricane Sandy — which swept through the U.S. northeast in late October, knocking down buildings, flooding streets and causing widespread power outages — is by building hope and sending love.

And she aims to do what she can by connecting students in Port Coquitlam to kids in Brooklyn's Red Hook district that were affected by the storm.

"It's not always about money," said Moran, a PoCo artist and children's programmer, "Community connections are important, too."

On Monday, students at Westwood elementary school will be painting banners to be given as gifts to students at Patrick F. Daly school, which was flooded during the brutal storm.

The banners are a follow-up to an exchange of letters between the two schools in December and will be in addition to cash raised during an upcoming fundraiser for books to replace those lost during the flood that followed the hurricane.

Moran, who co-ordinated a similar project with a school in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, said in her experience, people appreciate such community linkages and feel better knowing someone cares.

"I would hope that people would do the same for us if a disaster happened here," Moran said.

To brighten what might have been an otherwise gloomy Christmas, Moran sent donated children's books, PoCo city memorabilia, RCMP pins, "Canada Cares" t-shirts and other gifts to the children, as well as artwork and letters from Westwood students.

The letters were full of care and concern, she said, and the accompanying artwork reflected students' appreciation of nature in the city, with images of bears, the Coquitlam River and salmon.

"I was surprise by how inquisitive the students were," Moran said.

Some of the letters from Brooklyn are still in transit but those that have been received show how much havoc the storm caused.

"Yes, they are resilient but the impact of what happens takes a while to get through," Moran said, noting that the children in NYC are finding ways to cope but will also benefit from connecting with kids their own age on the other side of the continent.

In April, thanks to a donation of airfare from Gerry Sly of Boyd Autobody and Glass, she will be able to visit the school and deliver a cheque for books that were ruined when floodwaters poured into in the basement, where they were stored during a library renovation.

To raise funds for the Books for Brooklyn project, the Stand Up for Mental Health comedy troupe will be performing on Sunday, March 3 at Laff Lines Comedy Club in New Westminster, and there will be a silent auction as well.

Tickets are $20 (plus an online service fee) and are available online at or at Facade West Salon in PoCo Place Mall, 2755 Lougheed Hwy.; or call 604-941-1488. Moran can also be reached directly at


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