June 06, 2020

United we stand after tragedy

The following commentary was submitted by Melissa Murphy, Kylie Gray, Leslie Rosa, Kris Stewart, Eric Holmes and Communications 2002 in Brewer.

The announcement was heard by the entire student body. At first, no one knew quite what to make of it. You could practically hear the buzz of TV’s coming to life all over the school. The information and images hadn’t sunk in yet when the bell rang. Everyone scurried to his or her next class to see what new images had appeared on the screen. As I walked into my English class, the mood was unlike any other day. We placed our bags in our seats then gathered around the TV. The entire class watched in silence, something that never happens in our class. The level of maturity and understanding about what was happening took me by surprise. As I watched and listened I knew I would always remember where I was and what I was doing when the twin towers collapsed.”

“My initial reaction was what is Mr. Goss talking about? When I finally saw it on TV, I was in awe of what was happening.”…”When the first tower fell, it was very emotional to think of all the innocent people that lost their lives.”…”I seriously thought it was a joke, because it’s hard to believe that something that large could be erased in minutes.”…”It made me wonder how safe we really are in our society”…”I was in English class at the time, and when the announcement came on, I didn’t initially realize the ramifications the tragedy would have upon American society, and the world as a whole.”

These thoughts and others raced through students’ minds as our principal, Jerry Goss at Brewer High School, described the terrorist attacks as they unfolded on Sept. 11. As we worried about our families, our country and our world, we questioned how this horrible event could occur. Our spirits may have been knocked down as an initial reaction but they were raised as we came together to support those in New York City. We turned our shock into action.

Crystal Hammond responded by making soaps and candles that she sold for small amounts. She raised over $150 to donate to the Red Cross. Another individual effort turned into a sizable success when Kristine McHugh fashioned yellow ribbons with silver stars to hand out to peers. She chose yellow, symbolizing hope and remembrance, to show that America will prevail and rebuild. She explained that besides the obvious connection to the American flag, the stars “were just cute.” At first she planned to give away the ribbons; however, as she began to pass them out, she discovered that people were willing to make donations. They gave anything from $1 to $20. In three days Kristine raised $432, which she intends to send to New York’s Manhattan division of the Red Cross.

Community of Caring student Lauren Parker suggested another idea to her seventh period classmates, called the Chain of Hope. The Brewer junior thought it would be a good idea to let students in New York know that students in other states are thinking about them. With that thought in mind, our school plans to send a Chain of Hope to Stuyvesant High School, a school in the same neighborhood as the Twin Towers. Though their school was not damaged, they did lose power and had to clean up the mess around their school.

The plan is to cut red, white, and blue paper into strips and to send the strips to all the students at Brewer High School in their first period class on October 15. Then students will write a word or message of hope to the kids in New York. After our high school makes the chain, we will display it at our school for everyone to see before sending it to Stuyvesant.

Since our school system in Brewer believes in a Community of Caring attitude, we plan to take the idea a step further. The class plans to go to the elementary schools and lead the younger kids in a similar project. When the elementary kids have finished their Chain of Hope, the Community of Caring class will send the chain to an elementary school in Manhattan.

Aside from individual efforts, groups also stepped forward. Heidi Parks, anxious to give students a voice, worked through SeBeowulf to post a bulletin board where students could communicate their thoughts. One anonymous message reads, “Everyone will remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center was hit. Our hearts are with the people that suffered. All of those injured and killed are in our prayers.”

Prayer is exactly where the largest group turned on Wednesday, September 19, at 7 a.m. around the flagpole in front of the school. Nick Carter and Chris Towle led the session in song and prayer. Accompanied by a couple guitars the crowd quietly sang religious songs and listened as Nick asked God for strength, safety, and guidance. When he realized how large the gathering had grown, he said, “Wow, I have to get a count of this. This is just amazing.” At 7:30 more than 100 students entered the building with renewed faith in the character of the school.

Responses to the tragedy from students have been impressive; showing just how much the younger generation cares about their nation and how willing they are to help. Such dedication has created an atmosphere of generosity and unity at BHS. Sherri Capponi explained, “It’s great to have a school become so united over such a terrible tragedy; it offers me a better sense of security.”

The rubble still smolders, and the rescue effort continues. The worst terrorist act against America has brought out the best in our nation as a whole, and there is no doubt that the events of September 11, 2001, will never be forgotten. As posted on the bulletin board by Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian, “Terrorism only succeeds if it ruins our confidence.” Our nation has shown that the terrorists have failed.

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