Students who attend Williams Elementary School were not alive 19 years ago when hijackers used airplanes as weapons of destruction to kill nearly 3,000 people.
But like the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack has become a time to mourn and remember the events of that day.
For young children, 9/11 is a day school officials want students to come together in patriotism and unity, and to remember the heroes who protect and serve, whether they be military, law enforcement, or fire fighters.
Williams students had to view the short and poignant ceremony held at the elementary school on Friday, Sept 11, online, due to a technology failure that would have otherwise allowed students to watch via zoom.
About 300 students from the elementary and upper elementary school had already logged in for the ceremony when the failure occurred, but most were able to watch it later in the day on Facebook.
The ceremony included members of the Colusa Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 2447, who raised the American flag and lowered it to half staff, where it remained for the entire school day to honor those who were killed when two Boeing 767 airplanes were flown into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center, followed shortly by a third plane that crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth into a field in rural Pennsylvania.
Members of the Williams Fire Department also participated in the ceremony.
Assistant Principal Maria Chairez said 9/11 is a day that students should also remember that American spirits were not broken.
“We rose and we are still strong today,” she told the students.
Chairez also asked her young charges to think of ways that they could show pride in their country and put it into an art project.
The school is having an art contest in which students can show their patriotism and how and why they love their country. The deadline to enter is Sept. 21, Chairez said, and prizes for first, second, and third place will be awarded, along with certificates for all students who enter the Patriot Day coloring contest.
VFW Post Commander Mike Jones explained that the raising of the flag and then lowering it to half staff is a way to commemorate those who gave their lives to protect the nation.
“We do it to honor our fallen heroes,” Jones said.
In a proclamation issued on Friday, Pres. Donald J. Trump said Americans made a collective promise never to forget 9/11, and impart the memory of that fateful day to our children and grandchildren.
“The courage, heroism, and resilience Americans displayed on 9/11, and in its aftermath, are perpetual testaments to the spirit of our country,” the proclamation states. “While our Nation was anguished by this attack, the grit displayed that day — the very essence of America — was a reminder that our citizens have never failed to rise to the occasion. Heroes sprang into action in the face of great peril to help save their fellow Americans. Many laid down their lives. As we reflect on the events of that September morning, let us recommit to embrace the stalwart bravery displayed and reaffirm our dedication to defending liberty from all who wish to deny it.”
Williams Site Secretary Toni Hilger, who organizes a Veterans Day ceremony each year at the Upper Elementary School, organized Friday’s first Patriot Day ceremony.
It was the first official 9/11 ceremony held at the Williams Elementary School.
Patriot Day was signed into law about a month after the attack as a day to remember the events of 9/11, and to honor those killed with a moment of silence.
The first Patriot Day in the U.S. was Sept. 11, 2002.
But Hilger said Patriot Day is also a day for young students to show pride in their country, respect their country, and to appreciate all emergency personnel, as well as honor those in the military who serve to make America “the greatest country on earth.”
“We are very fortunate in this country and as young children, they may never learn to recognize that until they are able to travel,” Hilger said. “Once you travel outside of this country, you realize how lucky you are to live in this country.” ■