UNION CITY — Students at the public elementary school named after Gen. Colin Powell not only remembered him Monday after his death at the age of 84, but are reminded of him everyday, according to school officials.

The former U.S. Secretary of State died Monday of complications from COVID-19.

Though vaccinated, he faced underlying conditions that included multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, as well as Parkinson's disease, as reported by the Washington Post.

Powell's impact

The Union City elementary School built in 2012 and named after Powell lowered its flag and held a moment of silence to remember him. Flowers were also placed in front of a pictorial timeline of Powell's life and accomplishments within the school's lobby.

Principal Teresita Diaz told New Jersey 101.5 students are reminded of Powell daily, by viewing a memorable quote that also is part of the indoor display.

"It says 'a dream does not become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.' When we say this over the loudspeaker, constantly, they see that anything is possible in life. If you work hard for it and you have perseverance absolutely you can make it happen," Diaz said.

Powell's parents immigrated to the United States from Jamaica and worked hard to start their new life, the principal continued, which is something the largely Latino student population can relate to, according to Diaz.

"Work hard, come to school every day, study and you'll be whatever you want to be. And that's what we try to reinforce. To be respectful and accepting of others and Colin Powell demonstrated that for over 40 years fighting for our country. For freedom," Diaz said.

A quote by Colin Powell in the lobby of the Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City
A quote by Colin Powell in the lobby of the Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City (Teresita Diaz)

"I will return"

Diaz met Powell when he visited the school in 2013 with his wife, for a visit they had planned as lasting 20 minutes. Instead, they spent over two hours, meeting with the community.

"He went to every single classroom. He saluted our students. He really enjoyed the beautiful assembly we put together in his honor and it was a great experience," Diaz said, adding that Powell promised to return to the school.

Diaz said she kept in touch with Powell's longtime aide, Peggy Cifrino, and sent birthday cards from the students.  The school was planning to invite him to the school's 10th anniversary celebration in 2022.

Gov. Phil Murphy on Tuesday ordered that U.S. and New Jersey flags be flown at half-staff at all state buildings and facilities through Friday to honor Powell's passing.

Exterior of Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City
Exterior of Colin Powell Elementary School in Union City (Union City School District)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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