Today, South Orangetown schools marked the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with school-wide moments of silence, readings and class discussions that centered on heroism, compassion and service.
“Communities Show Hope” is the first character education theme of the school year at William O. Schaefer Elementary School and Cottage Lane Elementary School. WOS Principal Sheila Beglin recorded a read-aloud of “14 Cows for America” for classes and, during morning announcements, spoke about Tappan Zee High School alumnus, South Orangetown Central School District parent and New York Fire Department firefighter Dennis McHugh, who is memorialized with a plaque in the school’s main entrance. Students are writing thank-you notes and drawings for the Tappan Fire Department.
At CLE, grade-wide assemblies featured a reading of “14 Cows for America” by Library Teacher Kristine Wagner and a discussion of hope led by School Counselor Stephanie Mueller. Students reflected that “hope” meant “being positive,” “looking toward the future” and “to wish for something.” “Remembering 9/11 is more than just saying ‘Never Forget,’” Wagner explained. “Think about what you can do to provide comfort and peace.”
South Orangetown Middle School students and staff began their day with a livestream of “Three Patriotic Chorale,” performed by music teacher Elizabeth Krause and eighth-grade orchestra musicians Lukas W., Esther H. and Kayleen Y. in the school lobby. In social studies and ELA classes, students participated in conversations about 9/11.
Eighth-grade Current Events students shared their knowledge of the terrorist attacks and researched examples of service that emerged in the aftermath. “Let’s look for the light. After these attacks, many people all over the country honored those who died through acts of service, many of which continue today,” noted teacher Carol Fagan.
In Colleen Henry’s grade 7 ELA class, students created personalized charts listing what they know, what they want to know and what they have learned about terrorist attacks and our nation’s response. Henry recounted a recent reunion with a student who was in her class on September 11, 2001, who recalled that she had read the class poems. “We had to stay in the classrooms that we were in for several hours, we couldn’t switch. It was before cell phones, texts and smartboards and we weren’t sure what was happening,” she said.
In his address this morning, Tappan Zee High School Principal Rudy Arietta challenged students and staff to memorialize those lost by rekindling the spirit of service that emerged from the tragedy. “Communities across this country pulled together to support each other as we dealt with loss and uncertainty. Everyday people took it upon themselves to do something, whether it was donating blood, supporting families who lost loved ones, volunteering time to support our first responders at Ground Zero or simply finding other ways to commit time and energy to their communities…Seek out ways you can make our community a better place. As with anything, it will be our actions, and not the words that we speak, which will indicate whether we are truly honoring those we lost.”
Two trees and a plaque memorializing those lost–”We Will Always Remember”–stand in the TZHS library courtyard, a gift of the Class of 2002. Although current high school students were born after the attacks, the impact persists. Junior Kathryn Staker will be reading her uncle’s name, James John Woods, at the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony on Saturday.
“My uncle was my mom’s only sibling and he worked at the World Trade Center. He was 26 years old,” she said. “Even though I never met him, I’ve heard so many stories.” Other members of Staker’s family have participated in the past, but she hadn’t felt ready. “The twentieth anniversary is a big milestone and I felt like it was a way to honor him. It’s important to remember how this affected not only the families involved, but everyone–not just on the date, but every day.”
As our nation commemorates the anniversary of these tragic events, SOCSD remembers those lost, honors those who rose in service and encourages us all to volunteer in ways that provide hope, inspiration and support to one another.