Students and staff at Brooke High School paused Tuesday to reflect on the morning 11 years ago when lives were lost, heroes were made and life as Americans had known it was carried away in a thick plume of black smoke.
The school day began with a patriotic assembly in the gymnasium in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people. While most of those assembled were no older than 7 when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four passenger jets - flying two of them into the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and the fourth crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pa. - none could say their life hasn't been impacted by what took place that day.
Brooke High School Principal Toni Shute said anyone 15 or older will recall with clarity where they were and what they were doing when news of the tragedy reached them.
Photo by Ian Hicks
Brooke High School Principal Toni Shute makes remarks during an assembly Tuesday at the school in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Soon, the people of the nation gathered around the nearest television set, stunned and confused as they watched panicked crowds running for their lives, others jumping to certain death to escape the burning towers before they collapsed.
"These were people who, like you, woke up just like any other day and went to work," she said. "How many of them never got to see their husbands, wives, children, parents, lovers, pets ever again ... gone in a single, hate-fueled moment."
Shute urged students to look past the insignificant matters that often consume our lives and differences with loved ones and take time to appreciate life.
"If nothing else, 9/11 taught us that we never know what our lives will bring, or how many days we have remaining," she said.
Brooke County Emergency Management Director Robert Fowler, who oversees many of the local first responders, spoke of the changes that have taken place in American society since 9/11. Terms such as "Taliban," "ground zero" and "al-Qaida" now have become a part of daily conversation, he said.
Long lines to pass through security at airports and dozens of pieces of legislation including the often controversial Patriot Act have resulted from the attacks, he said. Local courthouses in every corner of the nation, now manned by armed guards and equipped with X-ray scanners, have seen the impact, too, he said.
Fowler reminded students that every American has a role to play in keeping the country safe, noting in the years since 9/11, the watchful eyes of the public have thwarted terrorists bent on causing death and destruction.
"Don't be afraid of terrorism. ... They want you to be nervous. They want you to be scared. ... But be alert," said Fowler.
The school band played the national anthem to open the ceremony. Junior Brent Kimball belted out "My Country 'Tis of Thee," and also closed the assembly by singing "Amazing Grace" after the band played taps. BHS graduate Jared Harlan also performed.
Students Adrianna Stevens and Michelle Woodstuff shared their feelings about 9/11 through poems they wrote to mark the occasion, while their classmates John Eichner, Jacob Hurshack, Frankie Eggert, Kassidi Reitter and Megan O'Donnell read from eyewitness accounts of the tragedy. The lights in the gymnasium dimmed as those gathered watched a presentation put together by the school's video production class.
Shute said the school began holding annual assemblies to commemorate 9/11 in 2006 and plans to continue the tradition every year.