- The Washington Times - Friday, August 30, 2002

D.C. public schools will observe a moment of silence on Sept. 11 and will teach students about peace, tolerance and eliminating racism, school officials announced yesterday.

Three schools in the District Leckie and Ketcham elementary schools and Backus Middle School lost students and teachers in last year's terrorist attacks. The three schools will hold special observances on Sept. 12 as part of the three-day commemoration, "A Time of Remembrance, Lest We Forget "

"The deep pain that we feel for those we lost has not diminished in the year since our lives and those of everyone in this country were irrevocably changed," said schools Superintendent Paul L. Vance.

"This one-year anniversary will reopen wounds that just were beginning to heal, but it is also an opportunity for us to remember those close to us who were ripped away from us unexpectedly," he said.

Mr. Vance and other school officials visited Leckie Elementary in Southwest yesterday to announce plans for the Sept. 11 observances honoring the lives of the teachers, students, parents and National Geographic staff killed when hijackers flew a plane into the Pentagon.

The events will honor the lives of students Rodney Dickens, Bernard C. Brown and Asia Cottom; teachers Hilda Taylor, Sarah Clark and James Debeuneure; and National Geographic staffers Ann Judge and Joe Ferguson. The group was en route to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif., for a educational trip sponsored by the National Geographic Society.

Yesterday, Mr. Vance addressed a group of principals, school board members and students who attend Leckie and briefly described what will happen during the three-day commemoration. Although time has passed, the teachers, children and their families have not been forgotten, Mr. Vance said.

"We recall the vibrant, vital men, women and children whose lights were extinguished. We honor them for their impact on our lives," he said.

On Sept. 11 at the approximate time of the crash, schools will observe a moment of silence, he said. That evening, an ecumenical service will be held at the National City Christian Church in Northwest. The communitywide service will remember and reflect on the lives of those lost during the hijackings, and will reaffirm support for D.C. students and teachers.

"September 12th is set aside to show our appreciation for the many groups who embraced us in our sorrow. Their kindness in the aftermath was gratifying," Mr. Vance said.

For the Day of Appreciation, [Sept. 12] Leckie Elementary School has invited students from Michigan, Virginia and Canada to spend an educational day at school. At Ketcham, an appreciation luncheon is planned for those who have expressed acts of kindness for those who were lost. Backus Middle School has tentatively planned a teleconference with students in Japan.

District teachers will spend Sept. 13 giving lessons from a curriculum designed to promote peace, tolerance and the elimination of racism and hatred. Each D.C. school also will develop a yearlong "Hope Project," designed to foster global peace and understanding.

At dusk, student representatives from the schools will participate in a candlelight ceremony.

D.C. School Board Vice President William Lockridge, who attended the event at Leckie, said, "September 11 was a extremely sad period of time for District public schools and for the world.

"We want to teach children [that] tragic events can happen. When they happen, they must find a way to deal with it. And, the school system should be a part of the process. They don't have to resort to violence," he said.

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