BRANDON – Sirens wailed, lights flashed and students chanted, “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” as Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office deputies drove cruisers and a motorcycle onto the Yates Elementary School grounds to commemorate Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance (known as Patriot Day, until Sept. 10, 2012).
The fifth annual celebration was conceived by Angela Oser, ESE specialist, and backed by Principal Richard Shields.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, a tragedy occurred in New York,” Shields told the approximately 600 children in attendance. “Several thousand people passed away that day, and a lot of those were first responders. They gave their lives trying to save other people. We have now a national holiday called Patriot Day. It’s a day of celebration and honoring our firefighters and police officers. Let’s give them a hand and thank them.”
Students sang songs and read essays praising these people who put their lives at risk every day to serve and protect. The entire crowd remained quiet during a moment of silent remembering, reflection or prayer at 8:46 a.m.
Then a member of the Hillsborough sheriff’s Marine Patrol Unit gunned the thunderous engine of an airboat, to the cheers of the children.
After high-fiving scads of kids, the first responders left with a dozen 10-gallon plastic storage bins full of snacks collected for them by the students.
In Valrico, Nelson Elementary School tied red, white, blue and yellow ribbons around trees in the school courtyard in a Ribbons to Remember ceremony.
Six years ago, fourth-grade teacher Terry Senhauser, who loves history and majored in social studies education, came up with the idea. The father of one of her students and spouses of several co-workers were deployed, and Senhauser wanted to honor not only the memory of those who died on 9/11, but also those still serving: law enforcement, firefighters and military personnel.
To teach children the history of Sept. 11, 2001, she gathered the student body together to place a ribbon on each of the four trees in the school courtyard to represent the four planes used in the attacks.
“It is also a way to honor victims and heroes of that day and to honor those who currently serve in defending America and the sacrifices made by their families, especially those that are a part of our Nelson family,” she said. “We focus on the positive aspects of heroism shown by the firefighters and police, not just on 9/11 but on a daily basis.”
Send news of community interest to Barbara Routen at Neighbors@tampabay.rr.com.