Schools to balance remembering, healing


Across the Baltimore region, thousands of public and private school students will spend today remembering the terror of a year ago and serving, learning and honoring those who died.

Dressed in red, white and blue or wearing ribbons, they will participate in a wide range of events to mark the anniversary - from simple moments of silence to full-blown flag-waving, fund raising or donating food and service.

At Valley Academy in Towson, children will surround their school with tiny flags. All over the area, "God Bless America," "The Star-Spangled Banner," and other patriotic songs will be warbled throughout the school day.

Students at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn will take time out to pray for the victims, the families of victims and for peace, but they'll also spend parts of the day in service, such as helping a local charity collect 90,011 nonperishable items for needy families.

"We certainly wanted to look back in remembrance. We wanted to spend time in prayer. And we also wanted to do something, so that it's not just another day," said Principal John Abrahms.

Children at Carroll County's Elmer A. Wolfe Elementary near Union Bridge will start a collection of "Kits of Comfort" to be used by the Disaster Child Care volunteers.

Shiloh Middle School pupils in Hampstead will pay 50 cents to wear a hat in school today - something normally prohibited by the county's student dress code - and will send the money to the widows and children of the Fire Department of New York's Rescue 2 unit, which lost seven men at the World Trade Center.

At Bryn Mawr School, pupils will offer a hand-made flag mural to firefighters in Roland Park. More than 200 of the private school's middle school girls have been matched with the name of a local firefighter or police officer and will send each one a personal thank-you note.

"In giving back to the community, it's part of the healing process," said Nancy Sherman, a school spokeswoman.

Baltimore County public schools will observe the anniversary with a minute of silence and lessons on themes such as democracy, patriotism, world cultures and community heroes.

The goal at most schools will be to anticipate students' and staff members' possible reactions to "anniversary grief" - a phenomenon documented by mental health experts - but at the same time maintain normality during the school day.

'Simple yet dignified'

"What we are trying to do is primarily something that is simple yet dignified in remembering," said Howard County's Eileen Woodbury, the district's equity assurance specialist, of the all-district minute of silence at 9:30 a.m. "But it will be a relatively normal day."

Many after-school activities have been postponed, so families can participate in outside events, or spend time at home together, Woodbury said.

School officials said they want to keep the emphasis today on learning, even if the lessons are about events, attitudes or topics tied to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Social studies classes in many schools will be centered on last year's tragedies, especially in middle and high schools.

American government students at Howard's Wilde Lake High School will explore how Sept. 11 changed the way our government operates, said Assistant Principal Marcy Leonard. Other classes will have discussions about various reactions to terrorism, balancing domestic vs. foreign interests or how our economic forces have changed since last year.

"We've got students in high school who are just several months away to a couple years away from voting," Leonard said. "What schools can do is help show them that it not only impacted them, but as citizens and as voters, they can also have an impact and send their thoughts back to their politicians."

Other schools across the region are finding ways big and small to give back - in remembrance of how last year's events brought Americans together.

At Broadneck High School in Anne Arundel County, students will plant 83 trees this morning to signify the 83 countries that lost citizens in the attacks. Environmental science classes dug the holes for the trees last week. The school also will hang the flags of those 83 countries in the main lobby.

Elsewhere in Anne Arundel, most schools will hold a moment of silence but otherwise keep the observances limited to social studies classes.

Superintendent Eric J. Smith has asked elementary schools not to show videos or television programs on the attacks. "While we want there to be respectful acknowledgement of what occurred a year ago, ... instruction is the first order of business," said Associate Superintendent Kenneth P. Lawson.

In Baltimore County elementary schools, teachers will read age-appropriate statements on the importance of the day to children in grades two through five. Similar statements will be read over the public address systems at schools across the region and will end with a minute of silence.

Most children will participate in the moments of silence and some schools are limiting the participation of their youngest pupil to that simple gesture.

"Most of the elementary students are a little too young to go into those issues," said Principal Brad Herling of Clarksville Elementary School in Howard.

"We'll take the 60 seconds of silence that everybody is doing, and we'll put together a few comments, that are affirming and not frightening to the children, kind of focusing on the heroism and the need to be unified as a country and that we're proud to be American."

When everyone else is reliving the day the world turned upside down, normality, in many schools, seems to be the overriding theme.

'We should never forget'

"I think the important thing is to keep as much normalcy as possible, with the balance of trying to make sure that we remember what happened. We should never forget," said Elkridge Landing Middle School Principal Tom Saunders. The school, like most Howard County schools, put the words "We Remember" on its sidewalk marquee.

"But also as Americans we need to continue moving on. I think the schools have a really important role in modeling that."

Sun staff writers Jennifer McMenamin, Stephen Kiehl and Linda Linley contributed to this article.

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