BRHS ceremony focuses on tragic events of 9/11

Event organized by two BRHS students

By:Vanessa S. Holt
   BORDENTOWN TOWNSHIP – They were dressed in red, white and blue, with striped shirts, star earrings and American flag bandanas.
   Some wore shirts that said "I Love N.Y." and some painted flags on their faces, but all of the students who attended the Sept. 11 memorial ceremony at Bordentown Regional High School on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks displayed the national colors as they read poems, performed songs and reflected on the events that happened one year ago that day.
   The evening ceremony was organized by juniors Kate LaMachia and Lindsey Scheman, both 16, who had been inspired by a leadership conference they attended over the summer to do something to memorialize the tragic day.
   Lindsey and Kate led the nearly full auditorium in a flag salute and encouraged students, their families and community members, including local fire and police personnel, to reflect on the tragedy while remaining strong for the future.
   The students recalled the tremendous fund-raising and supply-collecting efforts they undertook last year in the weeks after the attack, holding bake sales to raise money, sending encouraging letters and artwork to soldiers overseas, and even washing and packing the clothing of Ground Zero rescue workers at the Bordentown Township Petro station and sending it back to workers with "thank you" notes.
   Superintendent John Polomano told the audience that in the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001, Americans realized they were all part of the same neighborhood and came together as neighbors.
   Bordentown Township Mayor Mark Roselli remarked that many people had learned to appreciate every day that they have with loved ones, and encouraged others to remember to say "I love you" to friends and family and "thank you" to teachers and bosses more often.
   "We were attacked in a manner and magnitude that are incomprehensible to a rational mind," said BRHS Principal Frederick D’Antoni, describing the events as a "defining moment" for the country and for young generations who are learning responsibility and citizenship.
   "We will all remember that horrific day in our own way," said Assemblyman Joe Malone (R-30th), describing his own emotions on Sept. 11. "I cannot explain how we did it that day, but we did," he said.
   Emotions ranging from pain, despair, anxiety and emptiness battled with compassion, pride and hope when he visited the Ground Zero site, said Mr. Malone, in a scene that seemed to be a cross between the films "Independence Day" and "The Towering Inferno."
   Students shared their own perspectives through poetry and songs and through artwork that hung on the walls of the renovated auditorium.
   Among the performances prepared by area schools were a moving rendition of "American the Beautiful" and "This Land is Your Land" in both sign language and words by Clara Barton Elementary School students.
   Students at MacFarland Junior School drew memorial quilt squares on paper that were displayed throughout the auditorium, reflecting their wishes for peace and healing, their sadness, patriotism and hope.
   Like all of the students in the district, they put together their project in less than a week because the first day of school was only six days before Sept. 11.
   High school students offered songs and readings that reflected their own perspectives.
   One student read a poem, "The Names," by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins, a tribute to some of the lives lost in the attacks.
   Student Council President Courtney LaRocca read one of her diary entries about the events, saying, "How could these people do this? We are people — human beings."
   Students and local firefighters, police and emergency personnel received a standing ovation before the crowd was led outside for the raising of the flag. Although candles could not be lit because of the strong winds, the entire audience filed toward the football field where a flag was raised in the chilly late summer breeze.
   Voices joined in the dark to sing "God Bless America" beneath the flag, which flew at half-staff.
   "It was nice to see the younger kids up there," said Kate after the ceremony. "It was moving to see their patriotism."
   The two high school students who organized the event both said they had been profoundly changed by Sept. 11.
   "We were really scared," said Kate. "I had never been worried for my life before."
   Lindsey said she felt people had changed in the past year as a result of the attacks, making people more aware of their own patriotism and need to help one another.
   "I felt that it brought pride and unity to people in the Bordentown area," she said.