“To some of you all, this is just another day,” Pine Bluff High School senior and CMaj. Destinee Hudson said. “Imagine leaving for school or work and never returning home. This is what happened to many Americans on this date 16 years ago. The cost of the lesson we learned due to our arrogance, which opened the door for tyrants of the world, to commit the unspeakable act of killing thousands of innocent men, women and children."
Pine Bluff High School students, educators, first responders and community members on Monday remembered Americans who died at the hands of terrorists 16 years after the attacks.
Terrorists flew hijacked airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people. The victims included 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 Port Authority officers.
The assembly was organized by the Pine Bluff High School History Club and teacher Shalisha Thomas. Students saluted the American flag, recognized soldiers, firefighters, police officers and prayed. Thomas thanked first responders for being present. Pine Bluff High School Assistant Principal Kenneth Moore told the students to show the utmost respect at the assembly.
“This is a 9/11 ceremony: dear and near to every American,” Moore said. “I would like for you to put forth your best effort to honor those men and women and those first responders who gave their lives and are still continuing to give their lives.”
Pine Bluff High School history club vice presidents Crystal Barnes and Roshuna Harris welcomed fellow classmates and guests.
“We have gathered here today to ensure that future generations never forget how this particular day made so many impacts on the great nation we live in today,” Barnes said.
Pine Bluff High School senior and CMaj. Destinee Hudson gave a keynote speech and asked the audience to reflect on the attacks and those who died. She said the date of Sept. 11 holds great significance as an end and a beginning.
“To some of you all, this is just another day,” Hudson said. “Imagine leaving for school or work and never returning home. This is what happened to many Americans on this date 16 years ago. The cost of the lesson we learned due to our arrogance, which opened the door for tyrants of the world, to commit the unspeakable act of killing thousands of innocent men, women and children. As the days go on, we start to forget what national and global disasters took place on this date. I stand before you on today to tell you that we must remember. We must never forget the price we Americans paid and the depth that terrorists will seek our way of life and freedom.”
“Remember that 19 hijackers were the cause of the commotion,” Hudson said. “They caused the death of thousands and destroyed the World Trade Center. Remember how we stood united as one throughout the chaos. Race or nationality was not the issue. Whether black, white, Asian or Latino, we are Americans who recognize the common enemy to stand strong against. Remember that 9/11 did not mark the end of the evil-doing. One week later, letters laced with anthrax started showing up at businesses and major corporations. Today it still remains a mystery who the perpetrator is.
“… We remember once again how ordinary human beings living their ordinary lives reacted with extraordinary heroism when without warning and in an instant they came face to face with the most fundamental question of human existence. … Remember the innocent lives lost.”
Pine Bluff High School social studies teacher Alisa Smith asked Pine Bluff first responders to step forward and be recognized. Students and guests applauded each soldier, police officer and firefighter.
“These men and women stand ready and willing to risk their lives,” Smith said.
Pine Bluff School District Superintendent Michael Robinson told the students to show respect by being attentive at the 9/11 assembly. He recognized Pine Bluff High administrators, teacher Shalisha Thomas, retired teacher Virginia Hymes, Pine Bluff School Board President Henry Dabner and city officials. He thanked first responders for risking their lives to ensure the safety of other people.
“This day has a tremendous amount of emotions for me, because I remember distinctly when the towers were hit in New York,” Robinson said. “But more significantly, I think Colonel Underwood brought home a very valid point. The reason why today means something to those in my age category is because my grandfather and my great-grandfather - whom I remember extremely well - was a part of the World War and I remember the stories that he would tell. And what was most significant was when they were lowering him down into the ground into his vault and the shots were fired three times.”
The Reserve Officer Training Corps students presented the American flag, the high school band played the Star-Spangled Banner, and visitors and students alike placed their hands over their hearts and stood to honor America. At the end of the ceremony, the color guard retired the colors.