WASHINGTON – Teachers and children at Maury Elementary School wished for peace and pledged always to remember the Sept. 11 victims Thursday as they gathered around the cherry tree planted in their garden on that mournful day.
“Today we share hope,” Maury Principal Dale Talbert told the children,who could still vividly remember the events.
“It was a very scary day,” he said. “There was a lot of hugging.”
Talbert explained that many of the children's parents were called to duty when Flight 77 hit the Pentagon,and the children were left in the school staff’s care. Maury is about a mile from the Capitol.
“I feel sad because the kids died,” said Maury sixth grader Danielle Ferguson,11. “I want the kids to be safe and take care of themselves.”
Sixth grader Amber Petty,11 said,“I remember the news coverage,people walking away from the Trade Center.”
But the message that Petty said she would send to the world is “Don't be afraid!”
Two years later,Maury Elementary students observed the raising of the Freedom Flag,made to commemorate the Washington students,teachers,parents and National Geographic staffers who died Sept. 11.
Students Rodney Dickens,Bernard C. Brown Jr. and Asia Cottom; teachers Hilda Taylor,Sarah Clark and James Debeneure; National Geographic staffers Ann Judge and Joe Ferguson; and parents Marsha Dianah Rathchford and Johnnie Doctor Jr. were flying to California on an educational trip when their plane was taken over by hijackers and slammed into the Pentagon.
Public schools across the city displayed the flag,and about 150 students,administrators and elected officials participated in a ceremony earlier in the day at the school system’s headquarters.
President of the Best Friends Foundation Elayne Bennett explained the flag’s symbolism. Her group works with teenage girls in the public school system.
She said three white stripes symbolize the rescue,fire,police and Port Authority personnel who sacrificed their lives on Sept. 11,2001. Two middle red stripes stand for the Twin Towers and those who died there. A top red stripe is dedicated to the bloodshed of those who died at the Pentagon,and the bottom red stripe is for those who died in Pennsylvania. The flag also has a star — for all who lived and died for freedom – surrounded by five bars,representing a broken pentagon.
District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton,D,said the Sept. 11 events would be like the memories of President Kennedy’s assassination for older Americans.
“They’re likely to spend the rest of their lives trying to make sense of Sept. 11,” Norton said.
D.C. Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul L. Vance said the grief brought by the Sept. 11 attacks is tempered by the knowledge that an end is a new beginning.
“We come here to fight thoughts of despair with hope,” Vance said.