Monday, September 8, 2003

District school children Thursday will honor the lives of parents and former classmates and teachers who died when a plane crashed into the Pentagon on September 11 two years ago.

“In our remembrance, they come alive,” Paul L. Vance, D.C. public schools superintendent, said yesterday. “In our reflection, they become present to us again and touch our hearts deeply. That is why we continue to remember.”

The day will feature a moment of silence at 9:40 a.m., the approximate time an American Airlines plane plowed into the Pentagon. Officials have also planned a curriculum addressing what happened on September 11 and how to prevent it from happening again.

A total of 184 persons were killed — 59 on the plane and 125 in the Pentagon.

Aboard the plane were students Rodney Dickens, Bernard Brown Jr. and Asia Cottom, all 11, and teachers Hilda Taylor, Sarah Clark and James Debeuneure. They were on an educational trip with two National Geographic staffers to the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary near Santa Barbara, Calif. Two parents of D.C. school students working in the Pentagon also were killed.

Thursday’s events are just part of a yearlong memorial for the victims of the terrorist attacks. Students also will participate in projects such as working with the homeless, cleaning up and recycling trash and helping senior citizens. School officials said the community service projects were aimed at stamping out racism, intolerance and hatred.

On Thursday, students at Leckie Elementary School in Southwest will dedicate to the victims a memorial garden at 9:30 a.m. and a memorial playground at 1:30 p.m.

Students at Backus Middle School in Southeast will spend the day learning about peace and hold a memorial ceremony called “We Remember …” at 10:30 a.m. to honor a student and a teacher killed in the attacks.

Backus students say they have learned not to take classmates, teachers and staff for granted and that they appreciate the lessons they learned last year on the first anniversary of the attacks.

“The children of today are the future of tomorrow,” said eighth-grader Ayana Reed.

Ketcham Elementary in Southeast lost a student and a teacher in the attacks.

Principal Joyce Grimes said students have responded well to the classroom lessons they have had about September 11 and realize the importance of trying to change things.

“The children seem to take the lead of the adults [who say] this is a terrible thing that happened, but we don’t respond to hate with hate,” she said.

The school will hold an assembly called “Peace Begins With Me” at 10 a.m. Thursday.

Mr. Vance said the events and the weeklong display of donated gifts from around the world are an important part of recognizing and remembering the victims.

“The memories of that day are still as fresh in our minds as the time when we first heard the news,” he said.

The school system’s September 11 Memorial Foundation, which was established this year, has raised about $280,000 for scholarships, helping the victims’ siblings and memorials.

Public schools in Virginia’s Arlington and Fairfax counties and Maryland’s Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have no events planned. However, most schools will observe a moment of silence, and many social studies classes will be dedicated to discussing the attacks, school officials said.

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