Education

She was a baby on 9-11, but she feels a nation’s hurt

Patriot Day, students remember 9-11

Western Hills High School students observe the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with solemn ceremony. Many were babies or not even born when terrorists hijacked planes used to crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
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Western Hills High School students observe the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with solemn ceremony. Many were babies or not even born when terrorists hijacked planes used to crash into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Seventeen-year-old Peyton Proksch was a baby when terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, but even though she doesn’t have direct recollection of that day, she’s touched by a memory her parents shared.

Proksch, a senior at Southlake’s Carroll Senior High School, was just about 2 months old when terrorists hijacked three planes that crashed into New York City’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in a field in Pennslyvania.

“My mom was awake feeding me and saw what happened on the news,” Proksch told the Star-Telegram. “We lived in Seattle at the time, so she actually watched the plane hit the second tower live, even though it was very early where we were.”

Proksch said her dad went in to work that morning, but when he arrived, he found a note on the door: “Go home and be with your family.”

“I think about that a lot because even all the way across the country, all anyone wanted to do was be with their loved ones and treasure what they have,” Proksch said.

For many families, the morning routine of Sept. 11, 2001, ended at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time when American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. A stunned nation watched as three other planes crashed. Later, the nation learned that terrorists mounted an attack on the United States.

Today, people observe the anniversary of the attacks with Patriot Day, a “National Day of Service and Remembrance.”

Tuesday marks the 17th anniversary of the attacks. Communities across the country honor the fallen and commemorate the day with “Moments of Silence” and solemn ceremonies. In North Texas, events are planned at universities and middle/high schools.

In Dallas, the Southern Methodist University Police Department planned a ceremony to honor the fallen. In Tarrant County, the Fort Worth school district planned a memorial event at the central administration offices and 13 high schools. Ceremonies typically take place near the campus flag pole or in front of school buildings. The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History is offering free admission Tuesdy to its 9/11 Tribute Exhibit.

For students, the events are tied to teaching moments about a tragedy that took place while many were babies. Many weren’t even born when the 9-11 attacks occurred. They learn about that day and the subsequent “War on Terror” from their parents and teachers.

Russell Malesky, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, holds a lesson on 9-11 in his role as senior aerospace science instructor for Fort Worth’s Western Hills High School. Malesky leads the campus’ Air Force JROTC program.

“I knew exactly where I was and what I was doing,” Malesky said, explaining that learning the importance of historical events helps young people understand how tragedy can shape policy.

Malesky said that he ties 9-11’s impact on society to how the attack on Pearl Harbor was remembered and studied by students who weren’t alive on Dec. 7, 1941. Like Pearl Harbor, students today will hear about 9-11 from their parents.

“it is still fresh in the minds of adults today,” Malesky said,.

Kristen Ariola, a mother with children in Fort Worth schools who used to live in New York City, shared her 9-11 experience with her family including one who’s a senior at Paschal High School.

“I was close enough to hear the second plane hit as I watched it on the ‘Today’ show,” said Ariola, who lived in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn.

Ariola said it is difficult for her to watch memorial coverage of that day.

“We thankfully did not lose any close friends,” Ariola said, adding: “Lucy (her daughter) was 9 months old. I took her to the Brooklyn promenade the day after to look across at lower Manhattan. Someone had posted the lyrics of ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon all over our neighborhood. The following days were filled with the faces of the missing.”

On Tuesday, Ariola attended a ceremony at Fort Worth’s McLean Middle School, where her eighth-grade son attends classes. She said the ceremony included a speech from a flight attendant who described 9-11 from the perspective of someone in the airlines industry. Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, spoke about bravery exhibited by first responders, military and civilians on 9-11.

“It was wonderful,” Ariola said.

In Southlake, Carroll schools observe 9-11 with a moment of silence. Proksch said students talk about 9-11 in history classes, but in the context of the “War on Terror” that followed and continues today.

Proksch said even though students are aware of the impact of 9-11, there is a “bit of a disconnect” between young people who are otherwise close in age.

“I don’t remember the event at all, but people even a few years older than me do,” she said, adding: “There are also things that we now have that I’ve never known a world without, like intense security at airports.”

Artist Joaquin Cortez created a sand sculpture memorial to those who died in the World Trade Center collapse in front of the Bank of American building in Burnett Plaza.

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