Remembering: Students learn about 9/11 to remember

Published 7:00 am Saturday, September 12, 2015

A student from Pearl River Central High School places a flag in the ground during Friday's 9/11 Commemoration.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

A student from Pearl River Central High School places a flag in the ground during Friday’s 9/11 Commemoration.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

“What separates us from the animals, what separates us from the chaos, is our ability to mourn people we’ve never met.” – David Levithan on 9/11.

Friday morning students from Pearl River Central High School stood in remembrance of the lives and country that were changed before they were old to enough to remember.
The rain and dark clouds added to the somber atmosphere as the school’s NJROTC students lowered the school’s flag to half-mast to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.
The commemoration began at 8:46 a.m. with a moment of silence remembering the initiating strike of 9/11, when American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower 14 years ago.
After the silent remembrance, students and others gathered, watched as NJROTC members lowered the American flag to half-mast, where it stayed throughout the remainder of the day.
After the morning ceremony, students were given American flags to place in the ground around the flagpole.
NJROTC parent Lisa Saunders attended Friday’s ceremony to observe her 15-year-old daughter, Paula, participate in the remembrance.
“I’m very proud of her,” Saunders said. “We were in Virginia and living in the Washington D.C. area. At first, I didn’t believe it. Lisa was one-year-old. It was scary. Our older children were attending school and they were locked down and we were unable to pick up our children. I think it’s very important to teach the young adults so we don’t forget.”
PRC NJROTC Public Affairs Officer Allison Lott was about 2-years-old on that day, but realizes the magnitude of the tragedy.
“It was a very tragic event that happened in America,” she said. “It’s important that we remember. It made us realize what’s happening in the world and that we aren’t as safe as we think. I first watched a video about the 9/11 in the fifth grade and it made me cry.”
Cadet Petty Officer Third Class and Logistics for Log Shelby Martin first learned about 9/11 during history class in the eighth grade.
“It broke my heart when I first witnessed the events on the video,” Martin said. “It made me wonder ‘where is this little girl’s father now’ and ‘where is this family now?’ It really just hurt. It’s important to commemorate the families, people and children lost that day. It is a mark in history that changed a lot of things.”
Third-year NJROTC student Rendi Stewart said it’s important to remember the heroes of the 9/11, the firefighters, police officers and members of the military.
PRC NJROTC Chief Ron Hazlewood said the students put in a lot of time and effort in preparing for the day’s events, which meant enduring the hot weather and Friday’s rain.
“During class, we pull up a 9/11 documentary so that we can expose them to the events and talk about our experiences,” Hazlewood said. “Both myself and Senior Naval Science Instructor Col. Toddy Ryder were serving in the military at the time. When I first heard the news, I was driving to Norfolk Naval Base. As first I was in disbelief and then anger. It’s important to remember the events won’t be isolated; you should always be prepared for a terrorist attack. 9/11 really changed America and the way we see things.”
Col. Ryder said the students prepped for almost two weeks and poured their hearts, energy and enthusiasm into the ceremony.
“Many of these kids were born just a year before and there’s no way they know the America before or remember the events firsthand,” Ryder said. “They know a lot about the day and deep within, they know how significant this day is. They know America is a different place. I’m very inspired by these kids and their solid moral character. While I believe our future is uncertain, I believe we are in good hands because of these kids.”
Ryder was stationed at the Marine Corps Camp Lejeune in North Carolina when he first heard about the attack.
“I was in absolute disbelief and felt like someone was playing a distasteful joke,” he said. “I thought it was a terrible accident or extremist media jumping to conclusions, but I was 100 percent wrong. It was a heartbreaker. The rest of my career was spent prosecuting something related to 9/11. I still look back and find it incredible that it ever happened. One thing is for certain, America changed forever.”
At 11 a.m., the ROTC rang the ship’s bell and played Taps, which signified the end of watch and honored the 3,000 plus citizens lost on 9/11, Ryder said. At 2:40 p.m., the group held a tribute honoring service members.

Students from Pearl River Central High School observed the commemoration of 9/11.  Photo by Cassandra Favre

Students from Pearl River Central High School observed the commemoration of 9/11.
Photo by Cassandra Favre

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