Saturday, September 15, 2001

Kids' flags offer 1,100 messages

Affixed to trees, they fly proudly

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Conner Middle School Principal Linda Viox looked at the small American flags covering the trees framing the entrance to the school Friday and vowed they would remain until nature took them down.

[photo] Individual flags are placed by Conner Middle School students into a basket held by Principal Linda Viox on Friday.
(Patrick Reddy photos)
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        Some 1,100 flags, each bearing a personal observation or note from the school's 1,100 students, were attached to the trees with the help of the Hebron Fire Department during ceremonies Friday morning.

        Eighth-grader Jarrod Strucke, 13, of Burlington, stood proudly with his classmates and teachers Friday to pledge allegiance to the flag while a banner reading “United We Stand” stretched over the front door of the school.

        “I hope this will show the terrorists or whoever is responsible that we'll stay strong as a country,” Jarrod said. “Someone out there doesn't like us. ... I don't know why. We are allies with most people and try to help everyone. But we still have enemies.”

        Ms. Viox said she came up with the idea of individually signed flags for the students while watching events unfold on her television Tuesday night.

[photo] A child's heartfelt message is included with a flag.
(Patrick Reddy photo)
        “I wanted to do something at school that would mean something to the students,” she said. “Kids need to express themselves. By having their feelings attached to the flags, they could write it and then see it. It becomes a part of the community.”

        Ms. Viox said the flags, wired to tree branches, “will stay there until the weather or a storm finally brings them down. We expect them to be there for quite a while.”

        School staff and two members of the Hebron Fire Department worked all morning Friday to place the flags in the trees. Firefighters Brad Hanlon and Austin Kresser used the bucket at the end of a ladder truck to reach the tops of the trees.

        “Members of the student council really helped when I told them what I wanted to do,” Ms. Viox said. “They contacted the fire department and asked if they would join us. Our fire department is a great community neighbor and asset.”

        Hebron Chief Dale Harshbarger said the members of the department were eager to assist.

        “This was quite an honor, that we could be involved in such a moving, inspirational ceremony,” Mr. Harshbarger said. “From the oldest person to the youngest, our support and patriotism in this country is being displayed on every corner and block of America.”

        Each middle school class brought its flags out to be placed in the trees and then recited the Pledge of Allegiance while facing the large flag that flies each day from the pole in front of the school off Ky. 237.

        The Conner students obviously put some thought into the messages pinned to their flags, if the note from sixth-grader Courtney Pugh of Burlington is any indication:

        “As the smoke and fire filled the sky, this day will be remembered as the years go by.

        “All Americans hope and pray that our freedom hasn't been taken away.

        “As my classmates and I watched in disbelief, we never knew hatred could bring so much grief.

        “Sept. 11, 2001, will be a day remembered by everyone.”

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