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The eighth-grade class of St. Joseph School in Cuyahoga Falls recently traveled to Pennsylvania to see where 40 people died protecting American soil.
Thirty-one St. Joe's students boarded a motor coach the morning of April 3 for a three-hour bus ride to the Flight 93 National Memorial near Shanksville, Pa., where they learned about the heroic actions of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 that thwarted the plans of terrorist-hijackers on Sept. 11, 2001.
The students were accompanied by their teacher, Jennifer Rauber; principal, Carrie DePasquale; St. Joseph Parish pastor, the Rev. Jared Orndorff; as well as several parents, chaperones and guests.
Rauber said she believes the students needed to visit the memorial because sometimes history isn't told they way it should be told. "With the evidence these students saw today, they will be able to carry the message to their children and their grandchildren of the heroes of Flight 93." With what they learned, she said, "they can grow in their faith, make decisions to do the right thing and impact millions of people."
"This was a fabulous opportunity," said DePasquale. "These kids don't have a sense of this history, and they can't understand why things are the way they are if they don't understand our past." While there, students presented the memorial's superintendent, Stephen M. Clark, with a banner signed by all of the eighth-graders who donated toward 93 cents for Flight 93. The class accepted a gift in a Flight 93 flag presented to them by Gregory Zaborowski, an education program specialist.
Time was spent there hearing presentations by two national park rangers, walking the Flight Path Walkway and Memorial Parkway, viewing the impact site from the Overlook, and exploring the Visitor Center Complex paying respects at the Wall of Names.
The trip was funded through a grant from the Hope Always Lives On (HALO) Foundation in Akron and 93 cents for Flight 93.
The eighth-grade class was awarded the grant because of the students' creative and successful fundraising projects, according to Mary Neugebauer, a student coordinator for the foundation who also made the trip.
Sharon Deitrick, the president and founder of HALO, said she believes Rauber's class is her first group of students to go to the memorial who were not yet born at the time of 9/11. They were born between 2002 and 2003, Rauber said.
Following the tour of the memorial, Charlie, 13, said he was impressed by what he saw. "It was a good way to honor the people who were on those flights," he said. "It was pretty informational. It had all the names, all kinds of relics."
Charlie said he learned a lot from the eyewitness stories the park rangers relayed, including that of an FBI agent who said she saw an angel. "I honestly think she did," he said. "God gave her a bunch of signs that He was there during their flight and brought them into heaven."
Classmate Colin Watson said he found "it so creative they way they made that path that showed the pathway of Flight 93." Colin said while he was in the Visitors' Center he was moved by the recordings of phone calls that were made on the plane. "It just made my heart break," he said. "I mean, people died. They were true heroes. I believe this is a beautiful memorial for true heroes."
Colin, born Feb. 9, 2002, said the Flight 93 National Memorial was worth the trip. "I would definitely come back again, and again with my own children one day," he said."
"Usually it's told as a story," said Isabelle Bailey, who turns 14 on May 2. "But actually seeing a place and seeing the video really helped it grow and be more than what people tell you and it's something I have now inside."
Deitrick spoke to the students during an orientation program at the school on March 31. During her program, Rauber's students presented Deitrick with a check for $1,600, money they raised through fundraisers.
Among those fundraisers were two Mission Mondays when students could dress down for school and, in a more creative vein, strips of duct tape were sold to tape Orndorf to a wall and chances were sold and put in a drawing to throw a pie at him, which one eighth-grade student, Charlie Domonkos, got to do.