- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 12, 2002

D.C. public school students observed a moment of silence and spent yesterday honoring the lives of teachers and students killed last year in the terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

Three schools in the District Leckie and Ketcham elementary schools and Bertie Backus Middle School in Northeast lost students and teachers in the attack.

Backus students honored their friend and schoolmate Asia Cottom and their beloved teacher Sarah Clark during a morning assembly in the school's auditorium.

The 90-minute program included a picture and biographical presentation of Asia and Mrs. Clark, as well as poetry, songs, a modern dance performance and words of wisdom from the Rev. Ralph A. Martino of the First Church of Christ Holiness USA. Mr. Martino was invited by sixth-grade teacher Lizzie Jones, who co-coordinated the program with social studies instructor Janice Mead.

During the program, Eric Dease, an eighth-grader, said Mrs. Clark's unselfish nature had left an indelible impression upon him.

"The last memory I have of Mrs. Clark was last summer when my mom brought me in for registration. Mrs. Clark told me to continue to do my best. She loved sports and she wanted to know if I still played football. Two weeks later, she told me she was going on a trip to California with National Geographic and she was taking some students," Eric said.

"You know, she used her time after school from 3:30 p.m. until 7 p.m. to help us with our homework. And there was no question that I couldn't ask her. If Mrs. Clark were alive, she would be strong and caring [during the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks]. Mrs. Clark said to follow the Bible. She was a Christian, and I miss her a lot," he added.

Charles Ward, 14, said the day was one for reflection and not for dwelling on personal problems.

"Today is a day to reflect on the time we spent with Asia and Mrs. Clark and how Mrs. Clark helped me through my trials and tribulations. She kept me focused. She always told me I could do it even when I doubted myself."

The eighth-grader recalled how he could not sit through three class periods at a time. He said he had a short attention span and was always getting into trouble for talking in class.

"Mrs. Clark told me to discipline myself, and I did," Charles said.

"Then, there was a time when I was in the band I had to get up at 5 a.m. to practice at 7 a.m. Then, there was class and after school I had basketball practice, plus homework," he said.

"I thought it was too much. But Mrs. Clark told me to stay focused and said she would help me. So she coordinated my schedule so I was able to get everything accomplished."

Charles said his heart dropped when he learned that his favorite teacher and a classmate, who were on a National Geographic Society field trip to California, had been killed when American Airlines Flight 77 was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.

"I felt like I couldn't go on. There was no one else to push or motivate me. It's hard to explain I was so hurt," he said.

Science teacher Sharon Royal read some of her poetry. "Giggles" was dedicated to Asia, the smiling, giggling little girl, while 'The Butterfly' was written for Mrs. Clark, a woman Mrs. Royal said embraced her when she first arrived at Backus.

"This poem is for my friend and mentor, Sarah Clark who left us while doing what she did best, loving and caring for our children as she educated them," Mrs. Royal said.


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