Schools remember 9/11, thank 1st responders


EVANSTON — Students at Uinta Meadows Elementary weren’t yet born when the events of Sept. 11, 2001, unfolded, but every year fifth-grade students take a moment to pause and reflect on those events, the lives lost and the sacrifices made by first responders to the scene. 

Fifth-grade teachers and other UME staff members took turns speaking to students about what happened that day 17 years ago, where they were at the time and why the nation takes a collective pause each year to honor the memories of the heroes who gave their lives and those who serve our communities as first responders today. 

Secretary Holly Blair worked at the airport in Boise, Idaho, on Sept. 11, and she shared with the students a poem she wrote about what it was like to be at work at the airport during the terror, confusion and grief that day. 

Entitled “Never Forget,” it reads in part, “I will never forget unloading passengers and crew that didn’t know why they were being brought to our airport and then telling them what was happening. I will never forget hearing them cry and the look of utter disbelief that this could happen to our nation.”

Her poem continues, “I will never forget the look of the unknown and hopelessness from strangers that thought we may have answers. I will never forget those looking for hope and those that gave hope to others. I will never forget the way our Great Nation came together.” 

Along with Blair’s poem, teacher Lonna Holt read “The Little Chapel that Stood,” about St. Paul’s Chapel that survived the collapse of the World Trade Center, and especially emphasized the shoes left by firefighters and first responders on the fence — shoes that would never be claimed after hundreds of those same first responders lost their lives in the collapse. 

Students also viewed a slideshow of photographs from those days set to the Disturbed version of “The Sound of Silence.”

Throughout the presentation, representatives of local law enforcement and firefighters joined students and staff in the classroom. Following the presentation and a question-and-answer session, students headed outside to place their own shoes on the fence in front of the school building to honor first responders. 

They were then asked to spend a minute of silence thinking about the sacrifices made, after which they proceeded to shake hands with the line of assembled firefighters and police officers. 


Sept. 11, 2001, was a traumatic day for Americans.  The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center buildings, the crash of Flight 93, and the attack on the Pentagon cost Americans dearly in thousands of lost lives and a loss of homeland security. That day changed the United States forever.

Americans across the nation annually remember and honor the sacrifice of those lost that day.  Students in U.S. schools join in with a variety of memorial ceremonies. In Evanston schools, students, teachers, and school district employees participated in 9/11 ceremonies on Tuesday.

At Davis Middle School, principal Chris Brown led a very impressive and emotional ceremony to honor the 343 fire fighters who lost their lives as first responders to the towers. At the start of their school day, in every classroom, the students watched a five-minute video depicting the children’s book, “The Little Chapel That Stood” by A.B. Curtis.

This is the story of St. Paul’s Chapel which stands across the street from the World Trade Center towers. Upon arriving to the site, this was the place where the fire fighters put on their uniforms, took off their street shoes, tied them together and hung them over the fence surrounding the chapel, planning to return later to retrieve them. None returned. 

After the video, the students and staff at Davis Middle School, took off their shoes, tied them together, walked silently and in single file out the front doors of the school. As they passed the low wall surrounding the school entry, they hung their shoes across it. They then walked in a line to the flag pole where Brown was standing with the pictures and names of each of the lost fire fighters.

Each person read a name into the microphone placed at the flag pole and then proceeded down the stairs to the bus lane where six local firemen in full dress uniform were standing in front of parked fire trucks. The participants shook the hands of each fireman and then silently walked into the back entrance of the school. 

Principal Brown said this little story seems to have a powerful effect on all who hear it. He remarked that the little chapel which was so close to the towers miraculously had absolutely no damage and even the crystal chandeliers inside were in perfect condition. Brown said this year they chose to honor the firefighters; last year they honored the crew and passengers of Flight 93 and the year before that they learned the story of the “red bandana man,” Welles Crowder, who went in to the towers and lost his own life rescuing others.


Like millions of people around the country and the world, students and staff at Horizon High School marked the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks this week. For one staff member at Horizon, Sept. 11 and the days following hold personal significance. 

Science teacher Denise Barker was a junior in high school on that day in 2001. She remembers her teacher sharing the news of what happened. Denise said, “I couldn’t imagine then how that would affect America, my family and my life.” After explaining to students that the topic is “very close to my heart,” she asked students to put away their cell phones and technology and listen to her comments. 

Her father, Michael Barker, did search and rescue with the Missouri Task Force No. 1. By the time she arrived home from school on Sept. 11 her father was gone, having been called to New York City to be part of the recovery efforts at the site of the World Trade Center. 

As part of her presentation, Denise shared photographs taken by her father at the site of the twin towers, as well as audio clips from men who were also on the search and rescue task force. One of those audio clips said, “It was my first trip to New York City and when we arrived I could see smoke rising from what looked like a giant hole in the landscape.” 

Denise said, “The whole world was in shock and turmoil. No one knew if another attack was coming. The rescue teams weren’t even supposed to tell people where they were.” She explained to the students that cell phones weren’t as common as they are now, and she and her family spent every evening huddled by the phone hoping to get a phone call from her father. 

“It was challenging and dangerous to even get to the search and rescue area,” she said. Her father was one of the lead engineers on site and therefore he was often the first one into an area to assess for safety before letting any other rescuers in. “Buildings kept falling every day,” she said. “We didn’t know if he was OK, so we waited by the phone and prayed.” 

Another audio excerpt described the thick dust and smoke and an “indescribable smell” that set in after a few days, the scent of death and bodies. The audio said, “We kept hoping and praying to find someone alive. We realized we weren’t going to. ... We helped rescue the spirits of people.” 

Denise shared one photo of the remains of what was once a typical office, lined with cubicles. She said, “This picture is particularly poignant for me. It reminds me that thousands of people woke up that day and went through their normal routine, getting ready for work, drinking coffee, getting to the office, and they never went to work again.” 

She said she wanted the students to understand, “All of our lives changed that day. Our country hasn’t known peace since.” She was particularly emotional when talking about her father. “My dad has always been and always will be my hero. It tears me apart to look at video of the buildings collapsing. My dad cleaned it up.”

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