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by Ron Davis | September 22, 2011 New York Teacher issue
Students, staff, families and other members of school communities across New York City marked the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with ceremonies and activities honoring the sacrifices of the victims and the heroism of those who helped others on that fateful day.
One of those schools is PS 234 in Tribeca, one of the schools located closest to Ground Zero when the planes struck the Twin Towers. On the morning of Friday, Sept. 9, all of the school’s 864 students gathered with its 70 staff members in the school yard. There was a moment of silence followed by the singing of songs such as “This Land is Your Land.” Students then returned to their classrooms, where each teacher in the K-5 school read aloud a relevant book about the attacks.
“We had a number of former students who were at the school during the attacks who were kind enough to come back and share their experiences with current students,” said library aide Annie Luce, one of the organizers of the school’s commemorative activities. “They answered questions such as ‘Were you scared? When did you feel safe? Did you like your new school? Did you like it when you returned to 234?’”
Luce said the school held an open house this Sept. 11 that featured paper cranes and an exhibit with a timeline showing what happened to the school that year.
“It was made up of artifacts, photographs, teddy bears and other gifts we received from all over the world,” Luce said.
Educators at PS 234 also presented continuous screenings of a number of films and documentaries about the school, including an episode of Reading Rainbow, a PBS television program, and a Moth Storytelling Project piece broadcast on National Public Radio.
The community at PS 19 in Staten Island also went all out to mark the anniversary. Social studies teacher Jeanne Raleigh and art teacher Natasha Galante helped students use tissue paper roses and Styrofoam to create a model of the Twin Towers as a memorial stationed in the main lobby of the West Brighton school. Fifth-graders planted a rose bush in the school’s Victory Garden, and school benefactor and community leader Dolores Morris challenged the 630 students at an assembly in the pre-K-to-5 school to be leaders in practicing tolerance.
The school had a memorial service where everyone joined together to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing “The Star Spangled Banner.”
“Many of the students had their own idea of what a memorial is from seeing them in their own experiences with framed pictures of a lost friend or loved ones and candles,” Raleigh said. “We didn’t want to focus on the destruction that occurred that day so we focused instead on the unity and growth that came out of it. We were lucky because many staffers who were there then are still here now. I told the principal later that even though the service was very powerful for students, we needed this for the staff, too.”
What is your favorite movie about a teacher?
Dead Poets Society
Stand and Deliver
Mr. Holland's Opus
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