Meade High School was one of 60 sites in the United States that hosted the inaugural 9/11 Flag of Honor Across America Memorial this Saturday.
The event began promptly at 8:46am, marking the time when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Nearly 100 people filled the school’s stadium in memory of the terrorist attacks.
Proudly in the middle of the stadium field flew the 9/11 Flag of Honor provided by Global Youth Justice Inc. and AmeriCorps. The flag lists the names of the 2,983 people who died -- 2,977 names from September 11, 2001, and six names from the first bombing of the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993.
While the flag waved high, passionate voices rang clear. Captain Paul Zimmerman, a 17th Company officer for the United States Naval Academy, was the keynote speaker for the event.
“The thing I resonated with most in the honor was the opportunity to reflect and state the impact this day 20 years ago had on me, my life, [and] my family’s life,” Zimmerman said.
For Zimmerman, the terrorist attacks were a “spark to drive into service for the country.” The attacks were a spark for many first responders and for others who serve the country as well.
“Be the best version of you that you can be,” a police officer told the audience. “That’s what I’ve carried with me since September 11, 2001.”
Following various speeches, a “We Will Never Forget You” segment highlighted 50 people who died. Ten volunteers read biographical information — including names, birthdays and employers — for five people each. Before reciting information about the individual, the reader began with the phrase, “We will never forget.” Of the volunteers who read, nine were students.
For Glen Burnie High School senior Valerie Honeycutt, the reading had to be executed with devotion.
“These were people. They all had something — a life,” Honeycutt said. “I really tried to convey that when I spoke.”
Many students were not yet alive to witness the tragic day, unlike the adults at the event, but honoring its anniversary still had meaning to them.
“I was born a year and a day after the tragedy happened. Every time I reflect upon my year, I reflect upon the lives lost, how precious life really is, and how, at any moment, that privilege can be taken away from you,” Anne Arundel County Community College student Conor Curran said.
Camaraderie was evident as people from across the county came to support the event and its mission of honoring those who passed.
“There is a sense of community that this day brings upon people,” Curran said. “It is often said that the way we come together is through tragedy. I hate that’s how we all have to come together, but in such a divided nation and divided state that we are in today, I feel like it’s important to know on this day that we need to be united as a country so we can move forward.”
The day would not have been possible without the numerous planners who worked together in three weeks. Key figures from Meade High School include Homeland Security Signature Program facilitator Jim Hopper, AVID coordinator Tracey Sellers and teacher Gwendalina McClain-Digby. Other leading organizers were Glen Burnie High School’s Public Service Signature Program facilitator Shirley Wais, Anne Arundel County’s Manager of Service Learning and Mentorships Lori Fowler, and the Student Service Learning Leadership Team members.
“What brought me out here was our planned united front, wanting to honor those that did perish on 9/11 and make something positive out of it for those who are still in mourning and those who maybe weren’t even alive when it happened,” Wais said.
The memorial reminded many adults of the same day 20 years ago, and it is still fresh in their minds.
“I can remember the feelings and emotions that day brought to me, just how somber of a day it was,” Fowler said. “It’s important that we always remember the day and then moving forward how we can bring light to such a dark time in our nation’s existence.”
Wais said, “As I’m sitting on the stage listening to the speakers, watching planes fly over us, it was an eerie, surreal experience where it just took me back. We can’t forget. We have to keep this alive.
“I think everybody should go to the Pentagon. Everybody should see the memorial in New York City of the Twin Towers. I haven’t been to Pennsylvania, but I would really like to go and pay my respects to those people that perished saving the Capitol from an unimaginable catastrophe.”
Respecting those who lost their lives is Wais’ call to action, and Fowler plans to continue the memorial tradition.
“This is the start of something that we would like to see happening in our school system for future years as a way to remember that day,” she said.
The flag from Saturday’s memorial will be framed and placed inside Meade’s building. It will hang as an important symbol for the school, and Fowler hopes for more.
“My goal is for us to have a flag in all of our high schools, and it would be beautiful if we could have a flag in every single school in Anne Arundel County.”