Go to http://beta.coastalcourier.com/multimedia/1403/ for a video of students commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Teachers, uniformed soldiers and dignitaries stood alongside children decked out in red, white and blue Friday morning at Lyman Hall Elementary to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Every school in the county observed a moment of silence, but what followed at Lyman Hall’s fourth annual Freedom Walk were messages of hope and perseverance.
“Just shy of 10 years ago, this big, big thing happened that affected everybody’s lives,” said speaker Capt. Scott Maurer with the 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry, 4th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division.
“By a show of hands here, who is actually under 10 years old?” he asked as a sea of hands shot into the air.
“It’s kind of crazy to think that when you all came into the world, you didn’t know an America without the term ‘9/11’ being a part of our culture,” he said. “And that single action has altered what happens here at home.
“And that was the past, and that has impacted the present — but what’s far more important than the present is the future — and that’s on you,” he said.
When asked, children in the audience said they wanted to be basketball players, artists and members of the Air Force.
Maurer explained the need to respect the teachers, police officers, firefighters and soldiers who preserve the future so each student can pursue his or her dreams.
The students also heard from WTOC anchor Sonny Dixon and Brooke Floyd, district representative for Rep. Jack Kingston, before walking two laps around the school accompanied by emergency-response vehicles and soldiers.
“It’s important that we never forget that day 10 years ago,” Liberty County Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker said. “It’s important that we do not forget our freedom and those who’ve died and sacrificed for our freedom because we still have those at war, and we still have those who are sacrificing.”
Age-appropriate dialogues — like Maurer’s — are vital to explaining the day and its symbolism to young children, according to First Presbyterian Christian Academy Principal Shannon Hickey.
“It’s an event that altered the course of our nation,” she said. “Like all of history, if we don’t learn about it and remember it, we’re doomed to repeat it.”
The youngest school-age children learn about patriotism, while elementary students learn about how parents and communities were affected, she said. Middle-school students begin to explore the concepts of war and terrorism, and high school classes discuss the details of the attack.
“You have to go into the details with them, you have to make it real,” Hickey said.
At FPCA, Head of School Sammi Hester read a fatality count and a poem about the attack while students gathered in a circle on the lawn. The school released six white doves from inside the circle to symbolize their hope for peace.
From bands playing “Amazing Grace” to a capella renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” music also marked the somber events and rallied American pride. At Bradwell Institute, members of the school’s band and chorus performed in a ceremony that also featured a wreath-laying.
Members of the school’s Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps led the presentation of colors, Pledge of Allegiance and invocation. The ceremony was played over the school’s closed-circuit system.
Lt. Col. George Lewis, battalion commander of the 4-3 Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 4th IBCT, 3rd ID, gave a speech paying tribute to the soldiers who have answered the call to service since the attack and communities — such as this one — that support them.
“The 9/11 generation includes more than 5 million Americans who have served … it includes those who were on duty on 9/11 and the nearly 3 million Americans who have joined the military ever since — many of them your parents, sisters, brothers, neighbors and classmates,” he said.
The average age of enlisted soldiers is 27 years old, and many were defined by the aftermath of 9/11, he added.
“The 9/11 generation has affirmed its place among the greatest of generations in U.S. history,” he said, citing statistics about the war efforts in the past decade.
More than 2 million of our troops have served in war zones; several thousand have deployed multiple times, and more women have served in combat than ever before — all with a volunteer military, he said.
“Never before has America asked so much of our volunteer force,” he said. “Moreover, the generation continues to step forward.”