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Albany/HV: Memorial playground built for East Coldenham disaster victims
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More than 20 years after a tornado struck without warning killing nine children, comes a special memorial to make sure they're not forgotten. Our Lori Chung reports.

NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- The new East Coldenham Memorial Playground comes together in short order, just a few hours in fact. The work here is acknowledgement of the elementary school's tragic past, but with a hopeful eye on the future.

"We have a new generation of kids coming in now" said Robert Ganci of Montgomery.

"We thought if we built a new playground it would be a way to give the children, the future children and present children a place to come and be safe and also to re-memorialize all of the children that died here" said Patricia Duffy, PTA President.

Nine children were killed back in 1989, when a tornado ripped through the school's cafeteria, sending a wall crashing down onto the young students. Many others were injured.

"My brother in law went here back in 89, he was in that year of the kids that died" said Drew Brown. "That is one of the reasons why because I knew that the playground was going to be dedicated."

Everyone here is a volunteer, the playground paid for completely with donated funds. Organizers say the support is proof that the victims of the East Coldenham disaster have not been forgotten.

East Coldenham Elementary School Principal Gregory Heidemann said "I think the children in our school now don't completely understand it, but we do help them to understand it because it was an important event that happened here."

Jennifer Frank attended high school with survivors of the disaster. She heard about the new playground on Facebook, and decided to help out.

"People were telling me stories of being in the cafeteria" said Frank, "seeing bricks hurled towards them, seeing bricks hit classmates."

"It's good to know that from tragedy, something good happens."

PTA organizers are seeking more donations to help pay for the second phase of the playground's construction. The funds will go towards building an add-on for physically disabled children. Anyone interested in contributing can contact the East Coldenham Playground Memorial Fund, Attn: Patricia Duffy, 286 Rte 17k, Newburgh, NY, 12550.

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