By Brenda Maguire
BERLIN — Reflecting on the events of 9/11 usually brings on thoughts of sorrow, but not for the sixth-grade students at McGee Middle School. The students spent Friday morning participating in a peace walk to commemorate the heroes of that day.
“We’re looking at today as a day not only where we’re grieving, but what we can learn from (9/11) and we’re looking at it as a day of peace and promise,” Principal Scott Ratchford said.
Ratchford spoke to the students about the heroes of 9/11, including those who went back into the World Trade Center to save lives. Seventh-graders Theo Reed and Caylie Whiteside sang “God Bless America” and the students watched a slideshow of images from 9/11 during an assembly.
Following the assembly, students went on a peace walk from McGee Middle School to Berlin High School, where they walked one lap around the track and then walked back to the middle school.
“Everyone driving by sees us walking and it’s for hope,” sixth-grader Jillian Balaban said. “I think it’s a day of sadness and how you can remember what happened.”
Sixth-grade teachers Karen Stanford, Linda Garrity, Cindy Botticello, Shawn Pelletier, Carolyn Russell and Vicki Muggleston helped to put the event together and had been telling students about the history of 9/11.
“We’ve been doing things with people who stepped up,” Garrity said. “We’ve been focusing on heroes.”
Students put together letters and thank you cards, which were presented to paramedic Todd Ricci and EMT Rob Piascyk of Hunters Ambulance, and Deputy Fire Marshal John Yacouino of the Meriden Fire Department. Rich Scalora, emergency response coordinator for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, was also at the event.
“Many did die on that day, and we should not forget their losses, but because of their choices some kids still have their fathers,” Ratchford told the sixth-grade class. “I want you to reflect on hope … and reflect on what others have done to protect hope.”