Michael C. Riley Elementary fifth-grader Jeremy Smith had something to say about heroes during the Bluffton school's memorial ceremony for the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Reading from a paragraph he wrote for Tuesday's assembly, Smith said heroes act fast during a disaster, such as the first responders and ordinary people who rushed into the Twin Towers after the airplanes hit 11 years ago and the passengers on those planes.
"You don't need any training to be a hero," Smith said. "All you need is courage."
The names of M.C. Riley family members who have served in the armed forces were read, including Smith's grandfather, Donald Knorr, for his service in the U.S. Navy. After the assembly, Smith rushed over to give his grandpa a big hug.
Knorr said the students who participated in the assembly -- many of whom were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001 -- did a fantastic job.
The assembly comes in the middle of "American Pride Week" at M.C. Riley. Principal Adrienne Sutton said lessons and activities throughout the week are intended to give students a historical perspective of 9/11. Educators are also using accounts from people directly involved or who lost a loved one in the terrorist attacks to personalize the tragedy for children, she said.
Those lessons continued during the assembly Tuesday after the Bluffton Township Fire District color guard raised the flag to half-staff.
"This morning, students, I want you to notice that the flag is ... not all the way at the top of the pole," Sutton told the children gathered in front of the school, wearing paper hats depicting American flags. "And the reason the flag is flying at half-staff is because 11 years ago today, our country suffered a very massive loss of life during the terrorist attack.
"During that attack, communities all over the United States just like ours banded together, and ordinary people became courageous."
The Parris Island Marine Corps Brass Quintet, along with members of the fire district and the Bluffton Police Department, sat in uniform facing the students circled around the school's memorial garden.
The garden, also planted 11 years ago, was the idea of an M.C. Riley student at the time who wanted to find a way to honor the victims. Three palmetto trees tower there, one for those killed in each of the three attacks: on the World Trade Center, on the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania plane crash.
The former student's father, Mitchell Wilkerson of the Lowcountry Golf Course Superintendent Association, told the students about how his son John-William's idea has now flourished into a garden that everyone can take pride in.
Keynote speaker Greg McCord, the Beaufort County School District's student services chief, told the students they should also be ready to serve.
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