British children mourn passing of kindly princess School opens with students abuzz about details of news

September 03, 1997|By Michele Nevard | Michele Nevard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

LONDON -- A stone's throw from the crowds in Kensington Gardens mourning Princess Diana's death, the pupils of Bousfield Primary School began autumn classes yesterday, in the shadow of the nation's great tragedy.

At morning assembly, head teacher Josephine Mahaffey told the children, ages 4 to 11, about the school's rules and regulations.

She reminded them not to run, telling them it's dangerous. She told them speed kills, just as it killed Diana. And they all knew what she was talking about.

The children had up-to-the-minute details. Hunter Adam, 6, knew that the "car crashed because the big boys were trying to get pictures of Princess Diana to put in the newspaper."

Another pupil, 6-year-old Freya Willetts, knew "she crashed because of a drunk driver."

Each child was familiar with the events and talked freely about them.

Diana would have approved of this school. Thirty-seven languages are spoken at Bousfield, and 53 percent of the students speak English as their second language. It would have appealed to Diana's sense of equality.

She would also have been amused that the school is on the site of the house owned by the late Beatrix Potter, the children's author and illustrator who charmed generations of British children, and almost certainly the royal children as well.

It's too early to know just how these children will adjust to the news of Diana's death.

As Freya Willetts commented, "I remember I felt quite sad to know she wouldn't be around anymore. It's going to be quite weird not to see her."

The school was rushed with first-day arrangements, but even so the talk in the staff room focused on the events of the past few days.

Deputy head teacher Georgina Rudgley said, "The school will almost certainly do something to mark the occasion -- maybe a minute's silence on Friday."

Some of the children have already paid their own personal tribute to the princess. Nine-year-old Harmony Vasadidi took flowers with her mother to Kensington Gardens. She, like all the other pupils, was "kind of shaken."

Ten-year-old Frankie Kubicki lives down the road from Kensington Palace, where the Princess of Wales lived, and was used to seeing Diana in the neighborhood.

She believes Diana "was very special. She used her position to help people who needed help."

Frankie and her mother have been twice to Kensington Gardens to lay flowers and light a candle at night.

To the children of Bousfield School, Diana was someone they knew only from the media. They all believe, like Rosie Ashby, 6, that "she was very nice. We always used to see her on the telly and she helped people who went to hospital."

Rosie said she will "always remember the way she helped people."

Each child has a memory of her to keep.

For Frankie, it was "her clothes."

Harmony, "her kindness."

And Hunter, "her blue eyes.

"I think they were beautiful."

Pub Date: 9/03/97

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