When Maxwell High School seniors graduate in June, they will represent the last group of students who were alive on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists hijacked and weaponized four commercial airliners and killed nearly 3,000 people.
While no students remember the events that occurred 17 years ago, the Maxwell Chapter of FFA every year pledges that the attack on America will not be forgotten.
As they have done on the past 16 anniversaries of the attack, Maxwell FFA officers, members, students, school officials, veterans, first responders, and a few members of the public gathered at the high school on the morning of Sept. 11, 2018, for a solemn ceremony, which this year focused on heroes.
“Heroes aren’t born,” said Cody Pearson, Chapter president. “They are created, and they are created out of the circumstance. In the heat of the moment, they are tested against the fires of adversity. Even if it’s somebody that you look up to or guides you through life, they are still a hero all the same.”
In defining heroes, FFA officers Jillian Wilson, Natalie Wilson, Lanie Haywood, Alyssa Ramirez, and Morgan Dennis reminded students that heroes are people who make a positive impact on their lives; they are people who stand up for the greater good; they are people who do something positive for others or make the world a better place for all people.
“A hero is an individual who is admired by many for the courageous act or deed that they have accomplished, such as risking their lives for another,” Dennis said.
Sgt. Alejandro “Alex” Jauregui, who is such a hero, was the special guest speaker at last week’s ceremony.
Jauregui, a 2003 graduate of Williams High School, lost both legs, two fingertips on his right hand, hearing in his right ear, and suffered shrapnel wounds to his right forearm when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Sangsar, Afghanistan, in 2012, during his fourth tour of combat.
“As Americans, we may sometimes take the blessing of freedom and liberty for granted,” Jauregui said. “Everyday, around the world, American troops serve to defend our liberty and freedom. Police, fire and emergency service personnel stand ready to protect us.”
Jauregui was just a freshman in high school when the 9/11 attack occurred, and – at the time – did not know he would become involved and nearly lose his life in the war that followed.
“In 2002, one of my best friends joined the military right out of high school,” Jauregui said. “His name is Juan Loza, and the pride that he had when he came back wearing that uniform is what inspired me to join the military.” Jauregui joined the U.S. Army immediately out of high school, and later reassigned to the infantry unit with B Co 2-508th PIR 82 Airborne Division.
He served two tours of combat duty in Iraq, and was on his second tour of combat in Afghanistan when he was wounded in the line of duty.
“At the time I got hurt, we were the most deployed unit in the Army,” he said.
While speaking to the students about the 9/11 attack, Jauregui said those who were not at the epicenter of the events or lost loved ones truly know what survivors went through, but that all Americans share in the pain and loss.
“Sept. 11, 2001 wasn’t just an attack on New York and Washington, it was an attack against America; against our way of life,” he said. “It was an attack against every one of us.”
Jauregui said Americans owe it to those who lost their lives or loved ones on 9/11 to remember what happened and make sure it never happens again.
Schools throughout Colusa County also remembered 9/11 last week with moments of silent or brief ceremonies. ■