The tolling at Fox Chapel Middle School marks the moments when airliners crashed a year ago.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 12, 2002
SPRING HILL -- The sixth-graders, many wearing patriotic colors, sat remarkably well-behaved in the Fox Chapel Middle School gym as the school chorus sang America the Beautiful and scenes of Americana flashed on a giant screen.
Several joined in as the singers began God Bless the U.S.A. A handful of boys in the back saluted.
Then came 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane had slammed into the World Trade Center a year ago. The entire school marked the moment with silence, followed by a single, spine-chilling chime and a student essay read aloud.
Seventeen minutes later -- the time of the second crash -- another moment of silence, two chimes and an essay reading. They came again at 9:40 a.m., and then at 10:10 a.m.
Educators and children at Fox Chapel decided weeks ago to make their Sept. 11 remembrance a daylong event, with assemblies, classroom discussions and recollections over the intercom. Many had family members affected by the terrorist attacks, and they wanted a day to reflect, assistant principal Sharon Bray explained.
They were not, of course, alone. Schools throughout the county had activities to honor the United States and remember those who died Sept. 11. The events included a flag raising ceremony at Hernando High School, a parade at Chocachatti Elementary School, a memorial service at Deltona Elementary and a living rosary at Notre Dame Interparochial School.
At Fox Chapel, students said they appreciated the approach their school took.
"I thought it was a nice tribute to 9/11," said eighth-grader Jessica Dobarganes, 14, who has family living near the site of last year's Pennsylvania plane crash. "Last year, when I first heard about it, I could not believe it happened. . . . I just can't believe it's gone by so fast."
Chorus member Andrew Venton, 13, said many at the school cried a year ago, and they still have concerns about the future.
"I still wonder why the planes, and why he hit us for I guess no reason," the eighth-grader said, referring to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. "I'm worried that they're going to come back and do something another day."
Seventh-grader Felicia Cullen, 11, read her essay on her feelings a year after the terrorist attacks over the intercom system. She focused on the emotions that people experienced.
"It's hard to believe that something like this ever happened," she said. "It affected us all, whether we ourselves notice it or not."
School counselor Donald Brown said a few students had come into his office for advice, and some brought flowers to place on the flagpole, but "there's no rush of emotions." Teachers and students agreed to have more of a celebration of patriotism and freedom, Brown said, rather than a depressing bout of crying, as they still work through their thoughts.
"It's a memory that everybody is struggling with," he said.
But children said they are coming to grips with the issues. Seventh-grader Aimee Johnson, 11, said singing in the choir helped.
"It makes me feel like I am helping somebody," she said. "It's not like it's just singing a song, because I'm proud to be living in America. Singing the songs makes me proud. Sept. 11 isn't going to stop me from singing."