Public 9/11 events today
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
For schools across Beaufort County, the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks provides a moment to pause.
But because most students either barely remember that day's events or weren't even born yet, ceremonies planned at Beaufort County schools over the years have become less about the attacks and more about recognizing members of the military and emergency response teams and about patriotism.
Almost all Beaufort County School District schools and some private schools will mark the day in some way, whether it's with a moment of silence and flags flying at half-staff or with a formal ceremony.
One of the largest ceremonies is planned at Michael C. Riley Elementary School in Bluffton. Town officials and students will speak at the 9:30 a.m. ceremony in the Flag Court Garden, which was built specifically to commemorate 9/11. The event also features the Parris Island Marine Brass Quintet.
Linda Ferguson, a teacher and the school's student council sponsor, will oversee the assembly. She said more than 1,000 people are expected to attend, including parents, students, invited guests and residents.
Because most of the students weren't alive when the attacks occurred, Ferguson said, the school uses the opportunity to prompt students to thank military members and emergency responders, to discuss patriotism and to write about why they're proud to be an American.
"It's evolved into that sort of thing," she said. "Within the last five or six years, it turned toward honoring military families and local heroes. So it's kind of our way of saying thank you."
At Beaufort Academy, the commemoration will come in the form of 3,000 American flags to represent the victims of the attacks. It's the second year students have placed the flags in the ground, and it underscores the gravity of the day, said fifth- and sixth-grade teacher Anne Lindsay, who has helped organize the ceremony.
"When you say the number 3,000, I don't think even I can understand how many people that is," Lindsay said. "It's such a big number, and it makes it visible for them."
Lindsay discusses the attacks with her students, but said most of their thoughts about the day were gleaned from the memories of their parents or relatives. They talk about patriotism, and she reassures students that things have changed since that day -- that they shouldn't worry about an attack happening again. She doesn't want them to be scared, she said.
Hilton Head Island High School will tie the events of 9/11 to its ceremony. Principal Amanda O'Nan said the school replays news snippets and recordings from the day during the ceremony, which features the school's Navy JROTC and takes place around the flagpole.
But even many high-schoolers don't remember the day -- they were only about 7 years old when it happened.
"We talk about what happened that day but also how we're moving forward as a nation," O'Nan said. "They were so young, but it's such a major event that shaped part of our history. Anytime you have those major events, you have to commemorate them."