LaGRANGE, Maine — Kelena Spencer, 8, has heard her parents and teachers talk a lot about the terrorists who hijacked four airplanes and crashed them into the twin towers in New York City, the Pentagon near Washington, D.C., and in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
The fourth-grade pupil at the Marion C. Cook Elementary School in LaGrange was to have been born on Sept. 11. Her mother, Maria Spencer, however, had other plans. She didn’t want her daughter born on the same day as the attacks, so she managed to delay the birth until the next day, according to the youngster.
While the terrorist attacks came before Kelena was born and the people who died were strangers, Spencer said it was unfair that people minding their own business were killed. She said America must always remember those attacks.
To help toward that end, Spencer joined her classmates at the LaGrange school on Friday in a ceremony to commemorate the terrorist attacks, the ninth such remembrance held by the school over the years.
The pupils surrounded the outdoor flagpole as the American flag was raised to the top to honor America and then lowered to half-staff to honor the victims. The Pledge of Allegiance was followed by a short ceremony in which the pupils recited the events of Sept. 11 from when American Airlines Flight 11 with 92 people on board crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center to when the north tower collapsed more than an hour later. The touching ceremony ended with bells rung by a local firefighter.
A few adults had moist eyes at the conclusion of the ceremony, including Mary Kazyaka, a teacher at the school who was originally from New York. “There were people that I knew that didn’t make it [from the twin towers], and there were some who did make it,” she recalled Friday.
Kazyaka vividly recalled when she first learned about the attacks. She said she was in her LaGrange classroom when the school secretary came in and whispered to her that “something terrible had happened.” When she learned what had occurred, Kazyaka briefly told her pupils that America had been attacked, and they were saddened, she said.
Compassionate about the needless deaths that occurred that day, Kazyaka made a recommendation to hold an annual remembrance, and her idea was supported by staff and pupils.
“This is probably the most patriotic school I’ve been in,” Vicky Thompson, the school’s principal, said Friday. “We think being an American is an important part of our life.”
Levi Boobar, 10, agreed. “It kind of makes me happy we’re going to honor the policemen and firemen and all the people that died in the twin towers and the other places,” he said. Boober said he’s “kind of worried” that the attacks could happen again.
Jordan Prendergast, 10, said it was hard to believe that someone would kill or injure so many innocent people, but the ceremony lightened her sadness.
“It makes me feel good because we’re remembering the people who died that day and that they’re not forgotten,” she said.
For the adults in the audience, the ceremony awakened strong emotions. Parent Cathy Raymond said she couldn’t believe her ears when she learned about the attacks.
“I was driving on the interstate when I heard the news, and I pulled over to the side of the road and started crying,” she recalled.
Eleanor Leeman, a SAD 41 bus driver, said the ceremony brought back memories and tears. She, too, had been traveling and pulled over and cried, she said.
Memories are what the pupils are creating with the ceremony, according to Justin Baker, 10.
“Kids always have a special way of remembering events,” SAD 41 Superintendent Mike Wright said Friday. He said it was great to see the pupils honor the Sept. 11 victims.
Wright recalled that he was an assistant principal at Ellsworth High School during the attacks and that parents came into the school reporting rumors that the terrorists were holding hostages at the Portland International Jetport. “It’s something you’ll always remember where you were.”
And remember is what the LaGrange school wants the public to do, according to Thompson, the principal. “We may be small, but we’re mighty,” she said.