As of July 2015 Connecticut has an official children’s flower - the four o’clock, or mirabilis jalapa. Connecticut’s children’s flower has been named in honor of Michaela Petit, and her ability to imagine the world a better place. Vision is something Michaela Petit knew from the deepest part of her being. Killed on July 23, 2007, Michaela’s life was ended before she had the chance to carryout all of the dreams she imagined. Almost 8 years later, family, friends, the Michaela’s Garden project, and The Petit Family Foundation continue to thrive in her honor.
HB 5174, an act to create a CT Children’s State Flower, was proposed by Representative Al Adinolfi of Cheshire. The Four O’Clock is a special choice for Connecticut because it mirrors our children – simple in nature but diverse in style. In a time when differences isolate and separate communities, the 4 O’Clock is an example of the strength that diversity brings. The most curious aspect of the 4 O’Clock is its color. A singular flower can contain different colors, and similarly different colors can present themselves on the same plant. Amid these different colors and differences the flower thrives.
As Michaela’s cousin I am deeply moved by the outpouring of love that has followed her death. Creating a children’s state flower is indicative of Michaela’s spirit. Michaela knew that our differences may be severe, but it is this diversity that makes us strong. Michaela did not have to be taught this; she understood it innately, as I believe all children do. She had friends of different races, religions, ethnicities, ages, abilities, social classes, and so on. Did they like HGTV, Rachael Ray, soccer, mac and cheese, or a cute furry friend? Michaela was sold! It was the simple aspects of life that connected Michaela to someone who looked, spoke, or believed differently than she.
Michaela understood that differences in individuals lead to a stronger whole, and I believe the 4 O’Clock is a beautiful symbol for this lesson. The more varied the petals and flowers on the plant, the greater the beauty. Michaela understood what it means to have a vision, to imagine the world in a better light, and to make small changes each day to move toward that goal. I am thrilled the state of Connecticut has established a permanent symbol of vision, diversity, and community for the children of Connecticut.
Brooke Petit is a graduate of Providence College, where she studied Sociology and interned with three nonprofit organizations. She currently works in philanthropy and is interested in public policy, data analysis, social change and applied sociology. Brooke loves American handmade crafts, snail mail, and iced green tea. When not working her life is enjoyably filled with electro funk concerts and mindfulness meditation. Connect with her professionally on LinkedIn and personally on Instagram.