The observance of 9/11 got off to an early start in Cleburne ISD with several campuses participating in a national flag-waving initiative Tuesday to honor the 20th anniversary of the attacks on the nation.
Students at Santa Fe, Gerard and Coleman elementary schools, along with social studies, leadership and Navy JROTC students at Cleburne High School conducted brief assemblies on Tuesday, timed with the four attacks on the nation. Students recited the Pledge of Allegiance, conducted a moment of silence, then waved their flags for 60 seconds.
The hundreds of American flags waved by students were delivered to the campuses by Bob Fussner from the inventory used by Flags for Fallen Veterans. Fussner approached the district regarding their involvement in the event organized by Wreaths Across America.
“It was an honor to be a part of this,” Santa Fe Principal Sabina Landeros said. “The early celebration allowed teachers to spend the entire week teaching and reflecting on the events of Sept. 11. This led to students discussing their learning at lunch with friends, and after school with parents.
“Our students were bewildered at the thought that anyone would want to commit such heinous acts using airplanes. As an adult, I never saw it from this angle. Kids see airplanes, boats and spaceships and immediately connect them with joy, exploration and imagination.”
Engaging students in the history of 9/11 brought back memories of that Tuesday in 2001 for a number of CISD teachers as they prepared to lead discussions with students born long after the tragedy.
Dr. Ron Sherwood, registered dental assistant program instructor at CHS, shared a documentary on 9/11 with his classes on Thursday. He also provided his personal perspective of the day as it unfolded. Sherwood’s son, Ben, had just started his freshman year at NYC’s School of the Visual Arts, located only blocks from the World Trade Center.
“Ben was just getting his day going when the planes hit,” Sherwood said. “He had only been in New York for two weeks, and when he left we stood at the window at DFW and watched him fly off. We had no idea that was the last time we could enter the terminal area of an airport without a ticket.
“On 9/11 we could not contact him until after noon and it was just a gut-wrenching time for us. I envisioned him rushing down to photograph the carnage or help with the injured. We later found out that his school had locked down the dormitory, but Ben commented that the smell was indescribable.
“A month later, we flew to NYC to visit him for parent’s weekend and the pilot flew over ground zero which was still smoldering. He tipped the plane so everyone could see into the pit, which was quite a sight. We later walked the city, seeing the hundreds of posters of missing people, and we stopped by a firehouse in which everyone was killed.
“Flowers lined the sidewalk there and the firemen on duty thanked us for dropping by. For me, it is hard to watch the videos from that day, even after 20 years.”
Lisa Moore, who is a special education teacher at Adams Elementary School, included 9/11 in her lesson plans this week. Like Sherwood, memories of the day are close to her heart.
“Twenty years was a long time ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday,” Moore said. “I was in Orlando when 9/11 happened. At the time I was working in the technology/hardware private sector and my company was headquartered out of Massachusetts, with large offices all over the world, including New York. On that day, my friend Susan Huie, was at a board meeting in the North Tower. She died with so many others.
“I was in shock for some time and still have a hard time processing the events of that day and how many lives we lost. 9/11 is a special day for me every year.
“I remember those fallen in the attack as well as the fallen men and women who were trying to save lives. Every year, I visit the display at Jacket Stadium of the steel beam from the Twin Towers rubble. I am very appreciative that the Cleburne Fire Department continues to organize this.
“I always have a brief lesson about 9/11 and usually play the live coverage and listen for Susan’s name. It’s been important to me to teach my older students about this event, from the terror and shock we experienced that day, to the importance of remembering the men and women we lost that day.
“We talk a lot about freedom and the fact that freedom is not free — it is earned by brave men and women. This year my students are much younger, but I do plan to have a discussion about history and how important it is to remember events like 9/11.”
Wheat Middle School eighth-grade social studies teacher Jeremy White was a U.S. Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina when word of the first plane crash into the North Twin Tower came on the radio.
White spent Friday sharing videos of news coverage of the moments and aftermath with his students, highlighted by his perspective of that day and the days that followed.
“I saw 9/11 from a different perspective than most of America,” he said. “It’s a difficult day to remember. It seems like nearly every generation experiences a tragedy, from Pearl Harbor to the assassinations of President Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King. They are big things that stay with you. 9/11 is my generation’s tragedy.
“For our students, who weren’t even born, it’s a story; to us it’s a life changing event. For those who were in the military, it changed everything.”
Sgt. White, at that time, was a Military Police Officer over a unit of 13. His first thought, following the first crash, was of an “idiot” piloting a small plane.
“When all talking stopped as we watched the plane fly into the second tower, I knew then it was time to go to work,” White told students. “Everything we’d prepared for was about to happen. Those 13 under my command, they were 18- and 19-year-olds — not much older than you. They were kids, who were considered men — and they were scared.
“I told them we all knew what to do — but we wouldn’t be doing it that day. What we didn’t know at that time was the fourth attack on the Pentagon would impact one of the Marines in that room.”
A member of White’s unit was the son of a Pentagon employee. Her office was two windows over from where the plane hit.
“I saw a soldier who was of the size and build of a professional football player come apart before our eyes,” he said. “We all spent the rest of that day taking turns calling his mother’s cell phone and office phone. We couldn’t get through because everyone in the nation was trying to call loved ones in those areas where the planes crashed.
“It took 10 hours for him to finally get in touch with his mom. As it turned out, she had gone to the other end of the Pentagon, which is massive, to deliver a package. That’s how 9/11 ended for me.”
Days later, White volunteered as a replacement officer on a boat headed to the coast of Africa. He would later be deployed to Iraq, where he was involved in convoy security.
“Sixteen days after 9/11 I joined a unit going to one of the worst places in the world,” he said. “Members of Al-Qaeda were crossing the Red Sea between Somalia and Yemen and that was our destination.”
Max Collazo, who is in White’s third period American History class, recalls his first lesson on 9/11 coming in the fourth grade at Marti Elementary.
“The dad of one of the kids in our class was in the military and he came to talk to us,” Collazo said. “I never knew how big it all was until then. It was scary because it was terrorists that did this. September 11 has become more important to me now that I’m older and learning more about it.
“9/11 is a serious day and not an easy day. What happened came out of nowhere. The President was away from the White House, at a school reading to kids.
“I feel like every year we should talk about this date. I think about the people who died — who didn’t want to. I think about the people who went to help.
“I told my mom I want to be in the Marines. I like the idea of serving — protecting people and my family. There’s millions of people protecting us, and I want to be a part of that.”