Boardman students observe Patriot Day
By Jordyn Grzelewski
Kendra Wallace learned about the events of Sept. 11, 2001, from her mother.
“She told me about how people saved lives,” the fourth-grade student at Stadium Drive Elementary School said.
Tommy Varley also heard about 9/11 from his mom.
“She told me that people served the country for freedom, and they helped people survive,” said Tommy, also a fourth-grader.
None of the approximately 330 Stadium Drive students who on Friday marked Patriot Day, the national 9/11 remembrance day, were alive when the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil occurred 15 years ago.
They have no memory of 9/11, but their school has made sure they understand its meaning.
For the past 10 years, students at Stadium Drive have planted a tree in the school’s lawn to observe Patriot Day.
This year, Kendra and Tommy were among the students who helped plant an American Redbud tree, donated by Jerry Blasco of Blasco Commercial Services Inc.
“They need to know there was a time our country had a tragic event, but that our country also came together,” said Principal Mike Zoccali. “I think that’s important for our kids to know and realize.”
The focus of this year’s event was the firefighters, police officers and members of the military who protect Americans.
“The message that we wanted to preach to our kids is that police, fire and military support us, and we also need to support them,” Zocccali said.
Boardman firefighters and police officers visited the school, as did members of the high school band.
Fire Chief Mark Pitzer shared with students what Patriot Day means to him.
“My entire career, I never viewed myself as a hero,” said Pitzer. “This year my view changed on that.”
Pitzer recalled getting called out in April to an apartment fire, where he witnessed members of his department working to get everyone out of the building.
“When I stood there watching the guys work through exhaustion, it hit me,” he said.
“These are true heroes, who keep us safe day in and day out. ... Patriot Day is important to me now.”
Pitzer also asked students to share what Patriot Day means to them. Hands went up all over the room.
Second-grader Olivia Brady spoke shyly into a microphone, telling Pitzer she wanted to thank people like him who save lives.
She said she knew they couldn’t always save everyone, but she was thankful to them for trying.