St. Clair Junior High held a Patriot Day ceremony Monday in memory of the 16th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to pay tribute to first responders.
For the second year, students, faculty and members of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, Franklin County Sheriff’s Department, St. Clair Police Department, St. Clair fire and ambulance districts, among others, gathered around the school’s flagpole.
The JROTC Color Guard presented the colors, raised the American flag at half mast. In addition, JROTC student Jacob Jungbluth played taps, the Junior High choir sang the national anthem and “God Bless America” and Caden Guthrie led the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It is very important we make the time to honor all of our first responders and never forget the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001,” Principal Eric Lause said to The Missourian.
“Our Patriot Day ceremony at the St. Clair Junior High flagpole is a small way to say thank you to our first responders. It also allows our students to show their appreciation, as well as offer the students a reminder of the dangers these folks could face every day.”
Before the event, first responders were welcomed with decorations and treats in the cafeteria, put on by the Student Lighthouse team and Craft Leaders.
“The library was decorated with the different books that tell the story of our amazing country and the many stories behind 9/11,” Lause said.
“We have so many folks that work together as a team to make this event happen and I greatly appreciate all their efforts. This is the least we can do for our first responders since they do so much to protect us every day.”
Police Chief Bill Hammack, who attended the ceremony, told The Missourian it was great having students participate in the event.
“What’s interesting is, these kids were not even born when this happen,” Hammack said.
“I think the most important thing for them is to be taught and to learn what did happened. It’s a part of our history that should never be forgotten.”
Only an assistant police chief at the time, Hammack said he was at the gym when he saw the attacks happen on the news.
“I watched the other plane fly into the other twin tower and that’s when you knew it wasn’t an accident; that’s when you knew it was a terrorist attack,” Hammack said.
“I drove back to the police department and contacted then Chief Tom Yoder. We watched it unfold. I’ll never forget, you just didn’t know at that time how many more planes were up in the air,” Hammack said.
Fire Capt. Dan Cooley also spoke to The Missourian about his experience on that day. He said he was a volunteer firefighter in St. Clair and was working at Chrysler.
“I was at work at the time the attacks happened. I can remember hearing about it while on the assembly line and at break time, the whole break area was glued to the TV,” Cooley said.
He said he remembered getting off work early and watching the rest of the coverage from home.
“It was heartbreaking to watch,” Cooley said. “I was upset, angry, confused and extremely bitter.
“The fire service is a brotherhood. No matter where you go, you will hear firefighters talk about the brotherhood of firefighters.
“To see 343 of my fire service brothers pay the ultimate price doing what they were trained to do was gutwrenching.
“Still to this day on 9/11, I watch all of the documentaries they show just to keep those firefighters’ memory and honor alive. Thousands of people were saved that day by those firefighters’ heroic efforts and absolute disregard for their own safety.”
According to a History.com article, 2,996 people were killed in the attacks, including the 19 terrorist hijackers on the four airplanes. A total of 2,763 died at the World Trade Center including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority police officers.
At the Pentagon, 189 people were killed including 64 on American Airlines Flight 77, the airliner that struck the building. On Flight 93, 44 people died when the plane crash-landed in Pennsylvania, according to the article.