Higley Unified School District students remember 9/11

Higley school district students place flags in remembrance of 9/11. (Photo Courtesy of Quintin Bingham)

On Monday, Sept. 10, the bell rang at Williams Field High School, signaling the end of classes for the day.

A group of students gathered in the school’s courtyard as the sun’s blaze echoed off the surrounding pavement. Packages were opened and small flags were distributed. Students tenderly placed American flags into the soil, one at a time.

In the end, more than 8,000 flags were situated. Each flag represented a life — someone who had hopes, dreams, and loved ones. Each flag was hand-placed by a student, many born after September 2001.

Altogether, the flags stood to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost on 9/11 and the service members lost in subsequent actions since.

When classmates arrived on Tuesday, Sept. 11, they joined around the courtyard and flags for a ceremony organized by Williams Field High School Assistant Principal Gordon Ray. During the event, Ray shared the story of five Americans who lost their lives helping others on that day 17 years ago.

Mr. Ray, a former high school history teacher, said he has not forgotten where he was and what he was doing when tragedy struck.

“I remember, for me, going into my second year of teaching and dealing with my eighth-graders … and seeing the looks of confusion on their face – the fear, the despair. It kind of left an indelible imprint on me as to the impact history has,” Mr. Ray said.

As the memorial service ended, Mr. Ray said he hoped students took away something they could share with families and classmates.

“Carry on a discussion about what it means to live in this country, what it means to serve and what it means to truly love your fellow man,” he said.

Many Higley schools took time to remember what took place on 9/11 with the creation of art, moments of silence, class discussions and sharing of first-hand experiences.

Higley school district students place flags in remembrance of 9/11. (Photo Courtesy of Quintin Bingham)

At Higley High School, Jr. ROTC (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps) Cadet Kainani Manalo, a senior and fourth-year cadet, came up with the idea for each cadet to write names of 9/11 victims on strips of paper.

“Once she had all the strips, she and several other cadets construct the chain and hang it up in the hallway,” Col. Scott Vaughn, an Air Force Jr. ROTC instructor for the district, said. “It’s a great visual representation of the loss of that morning.”

Coronado Elementary School had its annual “heroes” recognition event, inviting local first responders to share about their jobs, as well as receive appreciation from the school.

Centennial Elementary invited Pipe Major Chris Broadley of the Chandler Fire Department to perform on bagpipes. He is the husband of Centennial’s Principal Rachel Broadley.

Two Sossaman Middle School teachers, Lisa and John Burke, shared their stories of Sept. 11, 2001, during morning announcements. The couple lived in New York City and John Burke was a member of the New York Police Department.

In addition to Tuesday’s event, John Burke shared his story during social studies classes on Monday.
At Williams Field, Brittany Alcantara, a junior involved in Jr. ROTC and student senate, said it was impactful for her emotionally to help set up the visual representation of lives lost.

“It’s people who suffered and died to be able to save other lives,” Ms. Alcantara said. “To take the risk, their own personal risks, and serve others before themselves.”

Mr. Ray said the community at Williams Field is keen on understanding what service is and what it looks like.

“You heard (the students) comments, ‘wow, that’s a lot of people.’ … That is what each of these flags represent. … That is what I want them to take away,” he said. “I want them to see what we lost as a nation, just in human life. That’s an eternal cost.”

Editor’s Note: Mr. Bingham, a public relations intern, and Ms. Reese, public relations coordinator, both work at Higley Unified School District. 

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