Bella Tucker's dream to live a normal life will be vastly more difficult than for most of her South Londonderry Elementary School classmates.
Bella, 8, lost all four of her limbs after contracting a potentially fatal infection on Easter Sunday, April 4. She is still at Boston Children's Hospital and will have to spend weeks at Shriner's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia being fitted for prostheses and learning how to use them before she returns home.
But she will not face the challenges before her alone. The entire community has rallied to assist her and her family. A series of contributions and fund-raisers has blossomed into a major construction project at the family's Lantern Lane home. What started as an effort to build an outside ramp has now turned into a 2,200-square foot addition, complete with separate garage and indoor elevator.
It has brought together both the private and public sectors.
The design and construction will be done by Nicholas Middleton, owner of CUBE 3 Design Studio in Lawrence, project coordinator Keith Boyle, Anthony Nigro of Suffolk Construction Company in Boston and Derek Felix of Blackdog Builders in Salem. Many other local companies donated materials.
Londonderry Community Development Director Andre Garron and Building Inspector Richard Canuel helped to expedite permits and septic system approvals in weeks instead of days.
A handicapped-accessible van has been donated to the family and the new addition will include a garage for the van. Otis Elevator Company reduced the price of the elevator considerably from the initial $30,000 cost.
The project will also add a farmer's porch for Bella to sit outside and hardwood floors to make it easier to get around. And all of this is being done at no cost to the family and is expected to be done well before Bella returns home by the end of the year.
None of this changes the enormity of the tragedy for a young girl who had dreamed of being a gymnast. But the love, support and generosity of neighbors and friends will make it that much easier to bear.
It is a heartening example of true community.
Lessons from the 'sexting' case
It is understandable that those caught up in scandal would like to "put it behind them" and "move on with their lives."
Former Londonderry High School English teacher Melinda Dennehy was charged in March with sending nude photos of herself to a 15-year-old male student. Police said she also sent multiple text messages to the student, some of them saying she wanted to perform sex acts on him.
Dennehy, 41, in a deal negotiated with prosecutors, pleaded guilty in Derry District Court to a misdemeanor charge of indecent exposure and agreed to surrender her teaching certificate. That reduced a felony charge against her, spared her from spending a single day in jail and means she will not have to register as a sex offender.
"All the parties wanted to put this behind them," said Londonderry police prosecutor Kevin Coyle.
But before putting it behind them, the case offers several cautionary lessons not only to the parties involved, but to the public.
Dennehy apologized to the court for "my actions and poor judgment." That was insufficient. "Sexting" between an adult and a minor is not a simple error in judgment, like making a wrong turn. It is a crime. In this case, it was more than a single incident. It was continuous.
Finally, it has been said numerous times before, but obviously bears repeating. In the digital age, it is beyond foolish to think that words and images sent by computer or phone are going to remain private. They aren't. If one person knows about it, the world can know about it. The momentary thrill of such things is not worth the lasting damage. Not even close.
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