Heavy Hearts at Graduation

    The recent death of Anna Mirabai Lytton, a Springs School eighth grader, cast a pall over the school’s graduation ceremony last Thursday evening at East Hampton High School.

    There was hardly a dry eye in the house as Springs students took to the stage during a ceremony that celebrated the achievements of those assembled while also serving as a final farewell to a beloved classmate.

    Less than a week before she was set to graduate, Anna was struck by a car while riding her bicycle on Pantigo Road in East Hampton. Airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, she died shortly thereafter.

    The entire Springs School community has been heavy of heart ever since.

    “Our community lost one of our own,” said Eric Casale, the school’s principal, last Thursday night. The start of the ceremony included a lengthy slideshow, followed by a special tribute to Anna. “Words cannot express the grief that we feel.”

    The ceremony took place inside East Hampton High School’s auditorium, where, come September, Springs students will begin their freshman year. With a little over 60 students in the graduating class, it’s an unusually close-knit community, with many in the eighth grade having attended the school since it first offered pre-K a decade ago.

    “Tonight, we are honored to have Anna’s family with us,” said Mr. Casale, who along with staff members and students wore boutonnieres festooned with blue bows, in honor of Anna’s favorite color. Several girls wore wreaths made of daisies. “We are here to show a united support for Anna and her family this evening,” he said.

    Earlier in the day, the class gathered behind the Springs School to release more than 150 butterflies into the sky. Kate Rabinowitz, Anna’s mother, read a poem related to a Native American legend. It states that because butterflies make no sound, they can carry wishes to the Great Spirit.

    “As a community, we should be proud of these students,” said Mr. Casale, noting that Springs students had demonstrated great courage and perseverance during an especially trying final week of classes. “Our job as parents and teachers is to shield them from events in order to protect them. I wish I could take away their pain and I’m not able to do so and that saddens me.”

    Several students and faculty members recalled Anna as an artist and poet who possessed a joyful demeanor and infectious smile.

    “It’s a night of joy and sadness,” said Danielle Futerman, the class valedictorian, during her speech. “Anna is now on a new journey, but she will always be with us in our hearts.”

    Later in the evening, as each student approached the lectern to receive their diplomas, Anna’s was the last name to be read. The audience stood to applaud as her brother, James Lytton, a student at the Ross School, collected a bouquet and a diploma in his sister’s memory.

    Before adjourning, he and Sienna Van Sickle, an eighth grader, jointly read aloud one of Anna’s poems — a haunting piece of writing about a canoe and its passengers reaching their final resting spot along the shore. With heads bowed, the audience observed a final moment of silence.