PALMER — More than 900 students gathered together on Wednesday morning for a simple routine. Prior to each day in class, students rise, face the flag and put their hand over their hearts, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. To honor Patriot Day, Sherrod and Swanson elementary schools came together to recognize Sept. 11 and remember the events that occurred 18 years ago today.
“You remember where you were and what you were doing when it happened so it’s just a way for us to remember and by remembering we hope to not repeat the past,” said third grade teacher Tanya Lang.
Lang wore a leather jacket adorned with patches, as did many of the motorcycle-riding veterans who came to Sherrod Elementary. For eight years, Sherrod has held a Patriot Day assembly, not only to remember the events of September 11, 2001, but to honor the members of our military and first responders. Not only were the students surrounded by their peers, but heroes that live among them. Palmer High School Resource Officer Kristi Muilenburg attended along with Palmer Police officer Virginia Calvert.
“I think it’s important that what they do see is as a community we come together,” said Calvert.
Of the community that crowded together on on the back playground at Sherrod Elementary were over 450 Sherrod Glacier Bears, over 450 Swanson Squirrels, Palmer Police, firefighters, Mrs. Alaska Serena Lee, and city officials who were joined by a half-dozen veterans riding motorcycles. After the students all filed in together, they were led in the Pledge of Allegiance, the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the “Alaska State Flag Song.” After the change in location for the common morning routine, students had the opportunity to climb inside the Palmer Fire Department engine and shake hands with veterans who came to Sherrod. One after the other, hundreds of students younger than 10 years old walked through a line of veterans, thanking each one for their service.
“I was honored to just be a representative of our community, to show them that you can achieve your goals and to honor those individuals that protect our community and I think it’s important to recognize that and also honor the people who had fallen,” said Lee.
The students returned to classes after the brief morning gathering, focused not on the events of a day they would not remember, but in honoring the legacy of those lost by being a part of the community.
“They’ve been super supportive I cannot praise them [Palmer Police and Fire] enough for all they’ve done for our schools and giving that positive relationship with our students,” said Sherrod principal Lorri Cook. “Just an awareness, and honoring those that have served our great country and just taking that time to have a moment to recognize that this is something important in our community.”
Among those who went through the line to shake the hand of every veteran in attendance were the Yockman brothers, Aidyn and Chevy, whose father serves in the Army. Cameron Stone brought his father’s badges to school to show his pride for his father’s service. Fifth grade student Jade Barker had to explain to some of her classmates that Patriot Day has nothing to do with the football team in New England.
“They served our country for us and how they we’re honoring them because of what they did for us,” said Barker. “My dad’s in the military so every day I have to just see him and everything and every day I’m thinking about how they honor our country.”