Remembering 9/11 Also Means Teaching 9/11

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AKRON, Ohio -- Students from St. Paul Elementary School are helping keep the memory of 9/11 victims alive one at a time.

For a week and a half the eighth grade students painstakingly wrote each of the 3,042 victims' names, one at a time, on index cards for retired Akron Firefighter John Woofter to pass out at his self-made memorial on Tuesday.

All of the students were either two or three years old when the attacks happened, so while paying tribute to their memories, the students were also learning about a historic event that they themselves do not remember firsthand.

"In today's society, I think we have a tendency to forget, and I don't think this should be forgotten, this 9-11 incident.  These young children that were here today, this is their Pearl Harbor," said Woofter.

The students said the project taught them a lot and along the way became very emotional.

"It was kind of important to me.  It made a big difference for me because none of us really knew what happened at 9-11 until we were told about it," said John Kuhn.

"At first, I just thought, 'oh it's just some names, it's just some other people,' but once you see the filming and you hear the voices calling out for their loved ones and you see the pictures of people and their astonished faces that they just can't believe it, it's just horrid," said Jesse Bobitt.

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The cards contained names of people very familiar to us, like Todd Beamer, a passenger on hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, who tried to take back control of the plane during the attack.

They also included names like that of New York Firefighter John Michael Collins, whose cousin, Ray Collins, stopped by Woofter's memorial on Tuesday to thank him.

"I made it a point to come here.  I was glad he was out here and I just shook his hand and said thank you.  It means a lot that people don't forget this.  It's one of those tragedies that hit America that I hope people never do forget," said Collins.

"I tell people, they talk about rock stars and sports figures being heroes  There was 3,042 people that was heroes on 9-11," said Woofter of his efforts to remember the victims.

"The thing that really surprised me was how important they thought it really was to their lives today. At first they just thought it was names on a paper but as the project went they understood that these names had families and their lives were affected and their lives are affected because of what happened," said Jud Hartman, the students' 8th grade teacher.

Some of the cards were taken home by the students so their families could pray for the families of the victims whose names were on them.

Other cards were passed out at a parents' open house. Even more were circulated by the parents themselves.

On Tuesday, Woofter was offering them to everyone willing to stop and get one, then asking them to keep the victims' families in their prayers.

"I just think, what could that person be doing today had they not died?  Where would they be in society?  What would they be doing?  Maybe they would be helping somebody else out, policeman, fireman, anybody that died," said Woofter.

Collins said while grateful for efforts to keep the memories alive of victims like his cousins, for many of the families there will always be a sense of loss.

"Even today I get choked up thinking about it, and not necessarily because I had cousins in there, just that that could happen here," said Collins, adding, "you know, it's one of those things nobody thought could ever happen here in America."