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An Aberdeen Proving Ground soldier participates in the annual 9/11 Remembrance flag waving along I-95 in Joppa. Three people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had ties to Harford County.
An Aberdeen Proving Ground soldier participates in the annual 9/11 Remembrance flag waving along I-95 in Joppa. Three people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had ties to Harford County. (AEGIS FILE PHOTO / Baltimore Sun)

In the days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, signs could be seen near the sites of the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Northern Virginia and western Pennsylvania, as well as in many forms of media, urging Americans to "never forget" acts of terror in which nearly 3,000 people died.

America hasn't forgotten in the 14 years since, as ceremonies are held each year in communities across the country, including Harford County, on the anniversary of the attacks.

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Three people with ties to Harford died on 9/11, including Willie Troy, of Aberdeen, who was a civilian employee at the Pentagon, Joseph Maggitti, 47, of Abingdon, who died in the World Trade Center, and Deborah Jacobs Welsh, 49, who was a flight attendant on United Airlines Flight 93 and the wife of former Harford resident Patrick Welsh.

Flight 93 crashed in western Pennsylvania as passengers and crew members tried to retake the hijacked aircraft, killing everyone on board.

"People thought that after a short period of time 9/11 would be forgotten, but now you see all these years later there's events all over the place to remember what happened on 9/11," state Del. Rick Impallaria, who represents eastern Baltimore County and western Harford County, said in a recent interview.

Impallaria and his House colleague, Del. Pat McDonough, who represents the same area, host an annual flag-waving event from an I-95 overpass in Joppa.

Members of the community have been standing on the overpass each Sept. 11 since 2002, holding American flags and waving at drivers on I-95.

This year's flag-will begin around 3 p.m. at the Old Mountain Road overpass, near the park-and-ride at the Route 152 and I-95 interchange. It should end around 6 p.m., Impallaria said.

"When we were first doing it people would be driving home from work, thinking nobody cares and all of a sudden they would see the sea of flags, and they would realize people do care and do remember," Impallaria said.

The event draws Harford elected officials, members of local fire companies and various members of the community, as well as people who were driving up I-95, saw the flag wavers and decided to join.

Impallaria said they can be people commuting to and from work, or they are traveling from other parts of the country.

He said a man whose brother was on Flight 93 joined the group on the overpass one year after seeing them while driving on I-95.

"We've had Boy Scouts come out, Girl Scouts come, people who bring their kids with them," Impallaria said.

The attacks are incorporated into lessons in local public and private schools each year.

This year's crop of high school students in Harford County, and other communities, were babies and toddlers when the 9/11 attacks happened, and children in middle and elementary school were not born yet.

Two of the three people with Harford ties who died on 9/11 also had ties to The John Carroll School in Bel Air.

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Mr. Maggitti had a child who was a student at John Carroll in 2001, and Mrs. Welsh's husband is a graduate, according to school spokesperson Joe Schuberth.

"Being a Catholic school we always commemorate 9/11 in a prayerful way," Schuberth said. "We remember the lives that were lost, and we pray for peace."

He said faculty members "will incorporate 9/11 on that [anniversary] day in some form into their lesson plans."

"Their focus will depend on the class being taught," he continued.

As examples, a financial literacy teacher might discuss the financial impact of the attacks, and a world history teacher might discuss the "global impact," Schuberth said.

"We remember it in prayer, and we remember it in lessons throughout the day," he said.

Jake Hollin is the school's social studies department chair and teaches classes in financial literacy and economics.

He said he incorporates lessons on the economic impact of the attacks, the effect on government spending and efforts to rebuild, as well as the basic facts of 9/11.

He noted seniors and juniors might have some memories of the events, but freshmen and sophomores who were born in 2000 and 2001 do not.

"There's this upcoming generation, it's history to them," he said. "It's not life necessarily."

Hollin said students are interested in lessons on 9/11, even if they do not have personal memories of the events.

"At the essence of it, there a number of human stories, and I think that is something that is always compelling to students," he said.

Hollin said John Carroll administrators and faculty "challenge each student to serve to make the world a more just and compassionate place," and they want students to consider what they would do if they are even in a situation similar to 9/11.

"Through that curriculum, through that content, it's important for us to develop the character of the students in front of us," he said.

"The events of 9/11 are identified as an event in the larger war on terrorism in the state curriculum," Jillian Lader, spokesperson for Harford County Public Schools, wrote in an email.

The attacks are part of the curriculum for high school world history and U.S. history courses, Lader said.

In addition to the curriculum requirements, the supervisor of social studies for HCPS provides materials each year for teachers, such as updates from national sites set up to commemorate the attacks such as the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York, on the site of the former World Trade Center.

Pieces of the Twin Towers' steel structure have made their way to Harford County, and they are part of several memorials around the county, including an annual memorial display put on by the Student Government Association at Bel Air High School.

"Recognitions of 9/11 are held in our schools on that date, as well as on other memorial dates throughout the year when we think about America's role in the world and what that means, as it continues to be a high-profile event for teachers to discuss with students," Lader wrote.

An I-beam from the World Trade Center is part of a 9/11 memorial at the Darlington Volunteer Fire Company's satellite station on Whiteford Road, a memorial that was dedicated in 2011 on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.

World Trade Center steel is also part of a 9/11 memorial in Aberdeen's Festival Park. That memorial was dedicated in early 2014.

Impallaria said young people who do not remember 9/11 "need to realize that being free, living in a free society isn't always easy, and people will attack us for that."

The attacks happened on a typical weekday, and they were a surprise to the American people, much like the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1941, which forced the United States to enter World War II.

"I think history repeats itself," Impallaria said. "I think that's what they need to understand."

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