For those old enough to remember them, the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are forever etched into their minds.
But most of the students in school now hadn’t even been born yet when that group of terrorists came to American soil and carried out a horrific attack, orchestrated by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, that killed 2,977 people in the World Trade Center towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
While his students have no memories of the event, public safety instructor Don Moody nevertheless wants them to learn about and understand it as part of American history.
For the second year, the retired police officer and his public safety students at the Bartow County College and Career Academy led the charge in placing more than 3,000 American flags across the Grassdale Road campus Friday in remembrance of the victims, including 343 firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers, who were killed on a date that will live in infamy.
“As a former law enforcement officer and volunteer firefighter-EMT and now as a public safety instructor at the academy, I felt a need to pay tribute to those public servants, Americans and our military killed in response to this horrific terrorist attack,” Moody said. “Three-hundred, forty-three firefighters and 71 law enforcement officers were killed on 9/11/01. We call them fearless heroes who paid the ultimate price. I often ask my future officers if they are willing to step up and serve.”
Cass High junior Alexis Ware said the tragedy turned the lives of the victims’ families upside down but also rocked the entire country.
“Many families lost their loved ones whose lives were cut short,” she said. “This day did not only affect the lives of where the attacks took place but the whole nation’s. We should never forget the depths of inhumanity to which terrorists were prepared to destroy lives and try to take away our freedom. We should always remember the heroic actions of emergency personnel and average citizens. We must remember this day so that we can prevent it or anything like it from happening again.”
Moody said he decided at age 16, “very much like my current students,” that he wanted a career as a law enforcement officer.
“Law [enforcement] and fire service are careers that are special,” he said, noting he loved serving his community. “You become brothers and sisters, no matter what city, state or country you serve. ‘Una Stamus’ equals ‘We stand as one.’ My heart sank for my brothers in NYC. It hurt, and I felt so vulnerable. I will never forget the attack on our country. ... I will always honor those who lost their lives on 9/11 and for our military, who made the ultimate sacrifice after the attacks.”
For Woodland High senior Alexandra Forrister, 9/11 will always be a “day that people really came together.”
“You had people on the street helping complete strangers,” the 17-year-old said. “You had black people, white people, females, Latinos, you name it, coming together and telling each other that, yeah, they were going to get through it. That this wasn’t going to be the end and that there was hope. That’s what really stands out to me about 9/11. It brought out endless compassion in people. And I think this is a page in life that we could all really take a note from.”
Moody — who came up with the idea for the 9/11 community-service project, with full support from Principal/CEO Dr. Paul Sabin, last year — said at least 100 students from his class and other pathways at BCCCA spent several hours putting the flags in place all over campus.
“I think my students understand the meaning of a career that requires sacrifice and honor,” he said. “We teach a segment on terrorism in our class. Students understand that evil exists in the world and that our profession — law enforcement — is the first line of defense for our communities and nation. Reflecting and studying history keeps them inspired to do what’s right and to follow a career path where they can serve.”
Forrister wanted to help put out the flags to remind people to never forget what happened that day.
“In a day and age where the story of 9/11 has become a complacent event in history, I think I wanted to bring meaning back to that,” she said. “As kids, none of us were there to experience it. We’re taught about it, sure, but none of us can really grasp the enormity of it. The emotional value has been lost a little. We know that people died and that it did a number on families all over, but none of us are understanding it. So by putting out these flags, I think we’re really representing the amount of lives that were lost. And it also taught us who are putting out the flags that yeah, 3,000 flags are a lot, but 3,000 lives are more.”
The group also used a fire truck that was donated to the academy by the Georgia Chapter of the Terry Ferrall Foundation, chaired by retired New York Police Department officer and 9/11 survivor Mike Korsch, as a backdrop to honor the fallen firefighters, Moody said.
“The foundation provides fire trucks, equipment and gear to local fire departments,” he said. “We are very thankful for Mike’s contribution and his dedication to our nation during the attacks and as the chair of the foundation.”
The flags, donated by 9/11 Never Forget Project through the Young America’s Foundation, will be left up long enough for local residents to pay their respects.
“We would like to give our community enough time to drive by and reflect on one of America’s greatest tragedies but also on one of America’s greatest moments, uniting in the most remarkable way after the terrorist attacks,” Moody said.