Several students filed into the Main Office of Bethel High School this morning to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, 11 years ago today.
The program, led by Lt. Commander Mark Dwinells of the school’s JR ROTC program, began with student Andrew Smith, senior, playing taps. Several ROTC cadets offered their thoughts over the loudspeaker during the morning announcements, and the BHS Chamber Choir celebrated America through song.
Romana Pilepich, junior, said that 9/11 proved the bravery and selflessness of American citizens. She asked students to recall the morning of September the 11th, 2001. “Do you remember getting ready for school, packing your lunch, and doing your everyday activities? Think of how similar your morning was to that of those who were lost in the attack.”
Other cadets read their thoughts over the announcements, including Willis Ballard, senior. “These attacks shook our entire nation, causing devastation to not only buildings of symbolic importance, but to the hearts, minds, and lives of all Americans.” Later, Bullard noted that this the senior class is one of the last to remember 9/11 firsthand.
A deeply stirring remembrance of the events was read by Erik Thode, whose fire fighter father knew some of the fire fighters who perished that day. Thode’s moving recollection resonated intensely with the adults in the room, who remembered seeing the terrorist act on television.
Thode read, “The resulting explosion shook the entire city. We thought it was an accident—a tragedy, but never considered the enormity of evil that was at hand. Giant pieces of the North Tower rained down upon the unsuspecting people of New York. All three main staircases were instantly cut off, leaving the people in the upper floors to either burn alive or jump to their deaths. At the time of the first impact, many believed that the crash was simply a horrible accident or technical flaw, but they would soon be proven wrong.
“Seventeen minutes later, at 9:03AM, Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 590 miles per hour. Nobody suspected that after this horror, there was more to come. At 9:47AM, Flight 77 struck the Pentagon in the Southeast side, immediately causing structural damage. Floors and walls collapsed crushing countless souls.
“Then, at 9:57 AM, the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed, crushing the remaining people inside. This included office workers, firefighters, police men, and all other heroes who came to help. A mere 6 minutes later, at 10:03 AM, Flight 93 crashed in a field near Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The intended target was either the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington D.C.. The passengers, who had heard of the previous attacks, tried to take control of the aircraft, bashing in the door to the cockpit with a food trolley, after passenger Todd Beamer uttered the words “Let’s roll” to his fellow passengers. Finally, at 10:28 AM, the North Tower collapsed, ending the series of tragedies that morning. It is estimated that 3,017 people died on that day.”
Students said that the day had changed their lives, as well as the lives of all Americans.
Caroline Renner, junior, said she felt the country had gone through a rebirth since 9/11. “We came together as one country, one America,” she said after the ceremony. "We have a deeper understanding of what it means to be an American.”
Thode agreed and said, “We all saw the terrible side, but we all also were able to see the good in our nation, the good in people’s hearts.”