BETHALTO — For a second year, Civic Memorial High School will honor the 2,977 men, women and children who lost their lives in the terror attacks of 9/11.
Each life will be represented by a flag on the school’s football field and will be memorialized with a brief biography printed on blue cardstock. The ceremony also honors first responders, doctors, nurses and members of the military. Stadium gates will open at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 10; the ceremony begins at 7 p.m.
The idea for the observance came from Angie Parish but it’s the students, she says, who have taken it and run with it. Parish has taught physical education at the school since 2001. A friend, Katie Ridnor Haddock, was an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps working at the Pentagon at the time of the attacks. If Ridnor hadn’t been at a meeting the morning hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon, she would have been killed.
Parish visited the Pentagon and the nearby memorial six years ago. When the Pentagon was rebuilt, a piece of stained and scarred limestone was used.
“I’ve touched the stone,” she said. “It was extremely emotional.”
Last year she decided it was time for her to pay her respects.
“My students were skeptical at first because we had no money, no flags,” she said. “We started from scratch.”
Purchasing the flags was the biggest expense. Students knocked on doors and solicited donations.
“They far exceeded my expectations,” Parish says. “We had all but $1,000 of the $3,000 we needed, which ConocoPhillips kicked in.”
As in Arlington National Cemetery, the flags will be arranged “so they’ll be in straight rows no matter in which direction you look at them.”
What made the project such a challenge last year, she added, was that the students researched each victim. One student researched the Falkenberg family.
“The whole family died,” Parish says. “The mom got a job teaching in Australia, so they sold everything and were on their way there that morning.”
The student, Kiere Witche, was able to make a connection with an aunt and the man who took the family’s dog and cat. She even received a card from the man and an email from the aunt expressing appreciation for the ceremony.
Khristina Raglin, 16, is working on a PowerPoint presentation to run this year. She helped with some of the bios last year and says she gained a greater appreciation for her own life and parents and not taking anything for granted.
“You know it’s sad but once you see their names and faces, it really hits you,” she said. “It touches your heart and you want to do everything possible to make it a strong event.”
The Alton VFW Post 1308 will post the colors and the Patriot Guard also will be there. A piece of steel from the Twin Towers will be on display, along with banners stating “Civic Memorial Remembers.”
Commemorative T-shirts will sell for $10. On the front is an eagle with red, white and blue wings. On the back is printed “9/11 A day that changed this nation forever. RIP to all our fallen heroes. Gone but never forgotten.”
Some of the 150 students involved will read poems and speeches. Senior Megan Andrus, 17, will take photographs to be posted online.
“I absolutely love this project,” she says. “It’s something that’s affected all of us, even if we weren’t directly involved, and it’s nice to honor that.”
More information is available at www.civicmemorial911.weebly.com. Photos of last year’s event are on Instagram at @civicmemorial911.