Friday, September 21, 2001

One message, one lost life

Classroom display tells number from terror attacks

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer contributor

[photo] The magnitude of death toll is expressed on the walls and windows of this Kings High classroom. Algebra teacher Jane Allen works with students who produced the paper memorial.
(Gary Landers photos)
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        KINGS MILLS — Jane Allen's classroom walls are lined with 5,000 slips of paper, a sobering reminder of Sept. 11.

        As a Kings High School math teacher, numbers are important to Ms. Allen. In the wake of that day's terrorist attacks, she wanted her students to be able to visualize 5,000 — the then-estimated number of people killed.

        Ms. Allen asked students in all of her classes Sept. 14 to cut up 5,000 sheets of paper, and to write messages on them pertaining to the attacks. By day's end, students began to paper the walls with their messages.

        “Each piece is a person, and in most cases, a person that was not found. I just wanted to put it into context for them,” she said.

[photo] The written messages range from patriotic to sympathetic, to angry and disbelieving, to statements of faith and hope.
| ZOOM |
        Ms. Allen asked students to write any message that pertained to the news coverage they had seen. Some students chose to write slogans, such as “God Bless America, love, peace, unity, forever strong.”

        Others wrote down victims' names.

        Some of the most poignant sentiments came from those who struggled to put a face to the victims.

        “A woman called her husband as the World Trade Center was going down and left a message on the answering machine telling him she loved him,” was one student's message.

        Another message was much simpler: “WHY?”

        “I won't ever forget this,” said Suzanne McMille, who worked on the project in Ms. Allen's homeroom, and then again in her math class later that day. “Seeing it every day makes me feel sad but it reminds me that I am lucky. I just don't take things for granted anymore.”

   A sampling of students' messages
   • “5,000 dead or missing, 5 billion thinking of you”
   • “How dare they take the life of the ones we love?”
   • “Sarah Law (victim), God loves you, and so does America.”
   • “Rest in Peace”
   • “A piece of our peace was taken”
   • “9-11-01”
   • “Innocence”
   • “Dianne Snyder, I'm writing to you to honor your memory”
   • “Thanks to everyone who gave blood”
   • “USA didn't die”
   • “We thank you for working at the Pentagon”
   • “A 65-year-old middle school teacher taking her two students on a trip”
        Cesar Mesones, 14, of Maineville is a freshman whose family immigrated from Peru five years ago. He said that he is shaken by the terrorism in his newly adopted country.

        “(Terrorism) is normal in South America,” Cesar said. “This is something that happens every day. But it really bothers me because I didn't expect this to happen here. Now I'm concerned that this could keep on happening.”

        Some sentiments expressed anger and hatred, Ms. Allen said, but she allowed those opinions to be expressed.

        “I let them say whatever they wanted. I figure if they're going to write their anger on a piece of paper, that's a good way to do it,” said Ms. Allen, who has taught at Kings for seven years.

        But the vast majority of sentiments expressed patriotism and religious faith.

        Ms. Allen said that she is not sure when she will take down the 5,000 pieces of paper. She will leave that decision up to her students.

        Meanwhile, one message hanging among the thousands summed up the project:

        “We will overcome this.”


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