It was raining last Wednesday, and rain was flowing in the form of tears from the adults who gathered with students for Bergen Meadow Elementary School’s annual Hero Day to commemorate Sept. 11, 2001.
While the students listened with interest to the presentation about local heroes — the men and women who work in law enforcement and as firefighters and paramedics — the adults were fighting back tears during the commemoration of 9/11.
“This is a tear jerker,” Evergreen Fire/Rescue paramedic Bob Walter said after the ceremony.
Paramedic Tom Sheppard added that it was great to see the children commemorating the anniversary of 9/11, especially since they hadn’t been born yet in 2001.
The students stood and saluted about a dozen guests who represented the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office, Evergreen Fire/Rescue, and pilots and flight attendants. It was the first time in 11 years that the weather moved the event inside to the school gymnasium.
Children saw a presentation of past years’ events with John Lennon’s “Imagine” as background music. They sang “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and the Bergen school song, and said the Pledge of Allegiance. They handed out roses and banners they made. One of the banners made by preschoolers said, “Thank you for having the heart of a hero.”
The 11th annual event has been hosted by principal Peggy Miller since the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington were struck by hijacked airplanes.
“Twelve years ago,” Miller told the children, “there was a tragedy in our country. The heroes rushed in to help. We’re here to celebrate those people and others like them who rush in when there’s danger.”
She said that when there’s danger, firefighters and law enforcement run in when other people run out. That’s what makes them heroes and special.
She told the students that even animals honor and respect the heroes, and she showed them the Clydesdale commercial that aired during the Super Bowl in 2002 where the horses bow to the city of New York.
While the children were interested in the presentation, the adults in the room were looking back on their memories of 9/11.
Bergen instructional coach Laura Bechtholdt reminisced about teaching in a Greeley elementary school in 2001. The father of one of her students had been in the second Twin Tower, and he called his family to say goodbye before he died when the tower collapsed. Bechtholdt said this year was especially poignant because that student will graduate from high school.
After the presentation, Miller said she agonizes each year about how much information about 9/11 she should share with the children, who are in preschool through second grade. Yet, she says it’s important that the students honor the heroes in the community who keep them safe.