ONEONTA — Fifth-graders at Greater Plains Elementary School participated in a host of community volunteer activities Wednesday to commemorate the lives lost in the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“We closed our eyes for a minute to remember our heroes,” said 10-year-old Morgan Mann.
“And who are our heroes?” asked her teacher, Jan Andrews.
“Ambulances, first responders, cops and firefighters,” answered Xander Balderrama.
“We can be a hero to our neighbors,” Andrews said. “We all need help at some point. What did the everyday heroes do?”
“They didn’t give up,” said Malena Buttermann. “They kept working. They didn’t stop.”
“To survive as a community, we need small heroes and we need big heroes,” Andrews said.
President George W. Bush proclaimed Sept. 11, 2002, the first Patriot Day after signing into law a national day of mourning to commemorate the lives lost in the terror attacks. In 2009, President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 11 a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“On this day, Americans across the country are called to volunteer in their local communities in tribute to the individuals lost and injured in the attacks, first responders and the many who have risen in service to defend freedom,” according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
“We celebrate Patriot Day to remember the heroes who helped people who were injured,” said Leah Ruling.
“And to remember those that serve us and protect us and keep us safe from bad things,” said Niko Iannelli.
“Our students are not old enough to remember the tragic events of 9/11, but we approach the topic with sensitivity, focusing on the responses of our country rather than the reason for the events,” Andrews said.
The class wrote thank-you notes to local first responders throughout the community.
“Thank you for saving people and going into danger to save people,” Ryan Khahan read from his card.
“Thank you for what you have done to help and what you continue to do in the future,” Lucy Rouggly read from hers.
Next door, Jamie Privitera’s fifth-graders made volunteer ID badges for their afternoon excursion with United Way, distributing informational safety packets to their neighbors near the school.
The teachers requested the students bring in cookies — “homemade is preferred, but not required,” Andrews said — to be arranged on platters and delivered to state troopers in Oneonta, the Oneonta police and fire departments, campus police at Hartwick College and SUNY Oneonta, the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office and the staff at A.O. Fox Hospital.
“So many people are not recognized as a hero because they’re not in uniform,” Andrews said. “There’s so many people doing things to help out, and I want the students to know they can, too.”
Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.