On Sept. 11,2001,the life of every American was changed forever. As our nation's capital,as well as other cities across the country,honors the memories of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks one year ago,D.C.'s Public School System is dealing with the loss of three Washington,D.C.,school children and three teachers who were among the 64 people killed when American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the Pentagon.
The students,all 11 years old,were Bernard Brown,of Leckie Elementary School; Rodney Dickens of Ketcham Elementary School,and Asia Cottom,a sixth grader at Backus Middle School. The teachers were Hilda Taylor,a sixth grade teacher at Leckie; James Debeuneure,58,a fifth grade teacher at Ketcham; and Sarah Clark,65,a sixth grade teacher at Backus School.
Although every school year presents challenges,this year teachers,students and administrators face the difficult task of helping each other heal. In a letter to the D.C. public school family,Peggy Cooper Cafritz,president of the Board of Education,asks parents and teachers to help teach the values of peace,love and understanding.
“In remembering our students and teachers who perished on Sept. 11,2001,let us be comforted by knowing that they will forever be the vehicles though which we in the District of Columbia Public School System remain committed to teach against hatred and violence,” said Cafritz.
In a resolution,the D.C. Board of Education designated Sept. 11 as a day of remembrance for the students and teachers who died on that devastating day. It was further resolved that “ all D.C. public schools will observe this day each year by teaching from a curriculum designed to address issues related to eliminating racism,intolerance and hatred and promoting peace.”
This week,Sept.11 was declared a “Day of Remembrance and Reflection;” Sept. 12, A day of appreciation devoted to recognizing the many individuals and organizations locally,nationally,and internationally that expressed acts of kindness to the students,families and staff of the D.C. public schools during the aftermath of the attacks,and Sept. 13,a day of hope in which each school will develop a hope project designed to promote global peace.
Laura Kleinmann,a librarian at Oyster Elementary School,said that the teachers there are working on a project called “Celebrating our Community” in which students learn about each other and other people in their neighborhood. This project ties in with the board of education's promotion of peace and the elimination of hatred by celebrating differences.“ When you lean about each other then you learn to respect each other,” said Kleinmann.
Eric Lewis,a guidance counselor at Ketcham Elementary School,agrees with Kleinmann. He believes that kids need a sense of empowerment on how to deal with violence. He wants young people to know that cruelty and hatred can be compensated by kindness and respect.
“ I personally feel that young people should be peaceful warriors because it connotes a person who fights without violence,” said Lewis. Lewis agrees with the Board's idea on promoting a global perspective and empowering students to create a better world. “Kids can be patriotic and have a world view,” said Lewis.
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks,if there is one message Lewis would like to say to young people it is,“don't feel hopeless or helpless,don't develop hatred. Anger can be funneled into positive things.”