- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2001

The big white bear statue that is Lake Braddock Secondary School's mascot wore new colors yesterday: stars and stripes were painted on its bulging tummy by the school's art class.
At the school's entrance, students tied red, white and blue ribbons and balloons to the fence and to the antennas of parked cars. Teachers and office workers wore sweatshirts with images of Old Glory, and students displayed necklaces made of red, white and blue beads.
The patriotism persisted inside classrooms as classes began. Students solemnly recited the Pledge of Allegiance, hands on hearts, something Erin Jenkins, 16, had refused to do before Tuesday's terrorist attacks. Yesterday, all 4,000 Lake Braddock students said the pledge together.
"Our nation is separated by race and religion, but for the first time everyone came together," she said.
Students here, as in schools all across the nation, are struggling to move on after thousands were left dead when hijacked airplanes slammed into New York City's World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon in Arlington. Many in Burke, where Lake Braddock is located, work at the Pentagon, so for some at this school, the terror cut close to home.
To help them recover, as well as learn, teachers this week mixed life's lessons with those in books.
"It is always a dilemma, balancing current affairs with the curriculum," said Dale Kummer, who teaches an advanced-placement class in government to seniors. The class is one period behind because of the unexpected closing of schools on Wednesday, but even so, Mr. Kummer devoted half of yesterday's class time to this week's events.
"Before this, it was Columbine," he said, referring to the April 1999 Colorado high school shootings. "But the impact of these [recent] attacks, obviously, is much greater."
Students recounted their reactions to the events of Sept. 11, and speculated about the future.
Mr. Kummer's question on retaliation against the terrorists evoked the strongest feelings. "We should find the people responsible for it. We shouldn't bomb innocent people [just] because they are the same nationality as the hijackers," said one student.
Another student said the attack had blurred political differences in Congress, unifying the lawmakers. "Small things don't matter any more," said yet another student.
Schools have been particularly protective toward Muslim students, fearing negative reactions from some students toward them.
Farena Sadiq, 17, a Muslim of South Asian ethnicity in Mr. Kummer's class, said a few students had treated her as if she were to blame for the attacks. "My mom was even afraid for me to go outside the house," she said.
Students were at school when the three planes rammed the three buildings on Tuesday, and some, who were watching television in current-affairs classes, watched as the buildings crumbled.
Leslie Meredith, whose father works at the Pentagon, said she "flipped out" when she heard the news.
"I couldn't even remember my mom's work number," said Leslie, 17. She said she was in a daze until she found out her father was safe. But, she said, he did lose some friends.
Meredyth Flahive, 17, whose mother is a federal worker, remembers being "freaked" because she didn't know which building her mother was working in that day. When she tried calling her mother on a cell phone, she couldn't get through. "It was the first time I broke down and cried at school," she said.
As it turned out, her mother was fine. But more tears may be in store for Meredyth. "If we go to war, I have friends who have signed up for the draft," she said.
The challenge for teachers and administrators these past few days has been to try to create as normal an environment as possible.
"We have seen a lot of emotion and somberness but our responsibility is to get things back to a semblance of normalcy," said Associate Principal Rod Manuel.
Students say their priority is to help the victims. They are too young to volunteer for rescue work and, in most cases, to donate blood, so they are collecting money for the victims instead.
"I have a lot of coins — around $74. I am going to give that to the victims instead of buying clothes for myself," said Phillip Legge, 17.
Meredyth, who is underweight and cannot give blood, said she would contribute $80 she has saved from a baby-sitting job.
Leslie plans to donate blood today.

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