Schools, residents pause to observe Sept. 11 anniversary

Published 12:15 am Wednesday, September 12, 2012

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Rachel Murray and her husband Ed, right, wave to cars as they hold a sign that reads “Honk If You Love America” outside of their son Jimmy’s business, Old South Pest Control, Tuesday afternoon on John R. Junkin Drive. “People all over the world love America,” said Ed Murray about the positive responses from drivers.

NATCHEZ — Dozens of red, white and blue balloons soared into the air Tuesday as Central Alternative School students remembered the events that occurred 11 years ago in New York City.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Tiara Prater, 17, right, and Trueshala Bostic, 16, center right, release balloons into the air with other classmates at 9:11 a.m. during the Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony Tuesday morning at Central Alternative School.

The Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony was a first for the school’s teachers and students who all gathered in a large circle in the parking lot before releasing the balloons.

“This was our way of remembering the loss of life and the tragedy that occurred on 9/11,” Principal Edward Reed said. “We also wanted to reflect on how blessed we truly are to be Americans.”

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A group of students who volunteered to speak at the event took turns reciting prepared speeches and even leading the school in prayer.

“We are blessed for waking up this morning, and we bless the victims and families of those who died in 9/11,” seventh-grader Jordan Johnson said speaking through a bullhorn in the middle of the circle. “And also forgive those who committed the crimes.”

Johnson, who was only 4 years old when American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175 flew into the towers at the World Trade Center complex, said it’s important to continue honoring and remembering the events that happened that morning.

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Jerry Stewart, 17, holds an American flag before the start of the Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony Tuesday morning at Central Alternative School.

“This is a good way to help the younger kids who weren’t around know about it,” Johnson said. “It’s just a good way to keep remembering everyone who we lost that day.”

The students and teachers were joined by Natchez Fire Department firefighters, Natchez Police Department officers and an Adams County Sheriff’s Office deputy who all helped release the dozens of balloons at exactly 9:11 a.m.

Down the road, Natchez High School students and faculty gathered around the school’s flagpole for a similar commemoration ceremony involving raising of the flag and a word from the students.

U.S. History teacher Margaret Beesley helped organize the event, which she said the school tries to vary each year.

“It’s important for all Americans to remember this day nationwide, and it’s all about honoring and remembering,” Beesley said. “This also serves as a teaching tool to educate those students that were very young when this happened.”

But students and teachers weren’t the only ones commemorating Tuesday, as Jimmy Murray and his staff stood outside Old South Pest Control pointing at two signs that read “Honk if you love America” and “Remember 9-11.”

“I don’t think people forget about it, but people are busy and don’t really remember what today is so this is a good way to remind everyone,” Murray said as cars, trucks and 18-wheelers blared their horns on John R. Junkin. “You just can’t forget.”

LAUREN WOOD | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Deqwon Griffin, a senior at Natchez High School and an ROTC cadet, salutes to the American flag during a moment of silence Tuesday morning during the high school’s Sept. 11 commemoration ceremony.

Some of the passengers even went above and beyond just the standard honk, Murray said.

“We had a bunch of people and the surrounding businesses come outside and tell us they thought it was great,” Murray said. “A Marine stopped by earlier and said, ‘If you guys are going to stand out here in the heat all day with those signs, the least I could do is stop and shake your hand.”

And even though it was the first year the business put the signs outside, Murray said it would not be the last.

“The response has just been overwhelming,” Murray said. “We’re going to make a special place for the signs in the back of the store and do this again next year.”