On Monday, Sept. 12, students at Washington Open Elementary School came to school dressed in red, white and blue. It was the day after Sept. 11 and 15 years after America was attacked by al-Qaeda, a terrorist group. Early in the morning, teachers brought their students outside to the school’s flag pole. Fifth grade student Ioan Har facilitated the raising of the United States and California flags among his fellow Cub Scouts in Pack 32 and the Girl Scout Brownies in Troop 61378. Har also led the school community in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Remembering 9/11 with a flag raising ceremony will be a new tradition at this school.
“It’s important for everybody to remember 9/11,” says Barbara Berman, principal of Washington Open Elementary School. “People have different philosophies about the American flag and I think it’s important for people to remember that for whatever country you are in, you need to honor that country’s flag. [At the flag ceremony], we’re not going to talk so much about the history of 9/11 as it’s up to the parents to talk to their children about it. In the upper grades, the teachers might talk about it but not in kindergarten or first grade.”
During the flag ceremony, Girl Scout Brownies and third grade students Rebecca Kunze and Mari Mizota read an award-winning essay by Joshua Formo about why the American flag demands respect.
“We should respect our American flag because it stands for freedom,” reads one of the girls.
Cub Scout member and fifth grade student Rikky Chandra read an essay with information compiled by Karen Cornwell, Washington Open School parent and event organizer, about the significance of the colors and design of the flag.
“[According to the Secretary of the Continental Congress Charles Thomson], white signifies purity and innocence, red, hardiness and valor, and blue… signifies vigilance, perseverance and justice,” Chandra reads aloud. “The House of Representatives’ 1977 book about the flag states: ‘The star is a symbol of the heavens and the divine goal to which man has aspired from time immemorial; the stripe is symbolic of the rays of light emanating from the sun.'”
Cornwell explains how she introduced 9/11 to her third grade twin boys and sixth grade son.
“All of these kids weren’t born yet when 9/11 happened,” Cornwell says. “I sat down with my kids yesterday and showed them old NBC footage of the terrorist attacks and what the news was broadcasting that day. My kids asked why someone would fly a plane into a building. ‘What purpose was that?’ they wanted to know… I know it’s hard for a lot of parents to talk to their kids about 9/11. But I talk to my kids about reality. I don’t like to hide stuff from them.”