Nine months ago, the United States was forever changed by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. Ever since that tragic day, families across the nation have joined together to offer support to those who lost loved ones on Sept. 11.
Now, a bittersweet meeting is bringing one family face-to face with a special group of Los Lunas students who have lent a helping hand during their difficult time of need.
Following 9-11, Karin Trujillo’s second grade class at Katherine Gallegos Elementary decided to take a personal approach to giving. The students adopted the Grazioso family from New Jersey, where Tina and her three children, Kathryn, 8, Kristen, 5, and Michael, 1, lost their husband and father, John, who worked for the investment firm Cantor-Fitzgerald inside the twin towers.
They not only lost John, but also John’s brother, Tim, in the World Trade Center attacks.
Throughout the 2001-2002 school year, the students and their families provided monetary donations, letters and care packages for the Grazioso family, to help with the long, healing process.
“It started out small and grew,” Trujillo said of the experience for both the students and their parents. “It’s been therapeutic for all of us. The whole situation has really touched me. That’s what happens when you teach: you do something for the kids, then you get something for yourself.”
Thousands of miles apart, the families got to know each other by exchanging photos and cards. Once a month, Trujillo’s class sent items such as New Mexican food, books and clothing to the family in New Jersey.
Tina Grazioso recently expressed her appreciation to the people of Valencia County.
“Thank you also for all your warm wishes, prayers and beautiful pictures. To know that perfect strangers halfway across the country care so much about us helps us get through each day,” she said in a letter.
She thanked the students and their parents for opening their hearts to her family. “I cannot express the joy I saw in my children as they eagerly opened each package you sent. To see a smile on their faces during such a difficult time means more to me than you could ever imagine.”
Parent Diane Klaus says she is very proud of her son and his class for doing what they could for the victims of September 11.
“Now it is time to be a proud New Mexican and show a hurting family – many states away – that there are people in this great nation of the USA who care about them.”
A unique meeting is planned for this summer, when the Grazioso family comes to visit Los Lunas on July 6. “Trujillo’s Rainbows” are raising money to fly the family to the Land of Enchantment.
The Graziosos will be arriving at 12:15 p.m. at the Albuquerque Sunport, where Trujillo’s class will be waiting to welcome the family.
The class is inviting the community to help welcome and show support to the family “who has lost so much in such an awful way.
“We want as many people as possible to meet at the airport that day,” Trujillo said. “Anyone who wants to come can join us.”
Southwest Airlines donated two tickets and the group is raising money for another two tickets.
The class is accepting donations and holding fund-raisers such as bake sales, raffles and a hot dog/hamburger sale at Albertson’s. Many local businesses are getting involved by giving prizes and donations for the cause.
“The more money the group raises, the more activities the Grazioso family can participate in while they’re in New Mexico,” Trujillo adds.
The students and their families are anxious to welcome Tina and her children to Valencia County.
They hope to take the Graziosos on field trips during the visit. Destinations include the Rio Grande Zoo, Cliff’s Amusement Park, the Albuquerque Aquarium and the Sandia Tramway.
Before the family leaves for home on July 11, Trujillo plans to host a barbecue for the Grazioso Family and all those people involved in bringing them to New Mexico.
Even with all they are doing, the dedicated group of parents and their children still need more help. If you are interested in making a donation or are interesting in volunteering, please call Karin Trujillo at 869-0428 or Diane Klaus at 866-4585.