Worthen Elementary School fourth-grader Damaneshia Westbrook speaks Sept. 11 during the school’s annual Patriot Day assembly. Fourth-grader Lucas Schardan holds the American flag.
GRANITE CITY — Mother Nature wasn’t kind to Worthen Elementary School’s annual Patriot Day assembly Sept. 11.
For the second year in a row, rain forced the assembly to be moved indoors. In past years, the program was held on the front lawn of the school.
“I kept watching Weather.com and it kept going 40 percent, 50 percent (of rain),” Worthen Principal Dottie Falter said. “I had a plan B and that we’ll be inside this year.”
Still, the 2015 Patriot Day assembly was a successful one.
“We figured out that it works inside, too,” Falter said. “We had quite a few people attend and it was a nice ceremony.”
For an hour, students, parents and faculty members remembered the people who served the United States as well as the first responders such as firefighters and police officers. Also, fourth-grade students presented flags, read a description of each flag and sung patriotic songs.
“It gives our kids something to look forward to,” Falter said. “If you’re a second-grader this year, you know that the year after next that you might be the one that will be holding that flag and you may get to have an active part. We have all kinds of music and they’re exposed to all kinds of video games and century things, but it’s important to revisit that traditional ‘God Bless America’ and ‘My Country, ’Tis Of Thee’ and we’re thankful that we’re living in America. We kind of have that atmosphere and that’s what the message that we’re sending and trying to reinforce that day.”
Patriot Day started in 2002 by former Worthen principal Dr. D.J. Kibort. Falter said the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that killed 2,977 people in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania inspired Kibort to have Patriot Day at the school.
“Her goal was to teach kids about patriotism and also recognize and thank our first responders like policemen and firefighters and that kind of thing,” Falter said. “Each year, it got a little bit bigger, so she would contact any student or parent who worked in law enforcement or anybody who was a firefighter or anyone who was in the military. We had several who were in inactive service who would come and participate in the program.”
The Disabled American Veterans Ladies Auxiliary provided flags for the program.
“They bring them out and put them all together and instruct the kids on how to handle them respectfully,” Falter said. “They have a narrative that’s all typed-up and describes each flag. So when we present the flags, there’s a bearer-like carrier and there’s a reader. They’ll present it to the audience and they read the description for it and so forth, so they’ve been gracious every year to come out and bring the flags and make sure we have everything we need for that. The kids will present so many flags and we take a break and sing some patriotic songs. Then, we’ll present the rest of the flags and talk about 9/11 and that tragedy and have a moment of silence to remember them and just kind of develop a sense of patriotism and awareness.”
Falter said the fourth-graders were excited to be part of the assembly.
“The fourth-graders who presented this year were kindergarten students and watched this each year,” the Worthen principal said. “They really look forward to being their turn to either carry a flag or read about a flag or do some part of it.”
Falter is in her fourth year as Worthen principal. She started working at the school in 2004 as a reading teacher.
“When I became principal, I felt it was important to continue that tradition both for the kids and the community,” Falter said. “You tend to look forward to those things that happen annually.”