Photo by Kelly White
U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Shepard High School held a 9-11 Remembrance at the school on Tuesday. During the event, JROTC members walked 56 laps around the field for a total of 14 miles.
By Kelly White
As a student at Shepard High School, Emily Lesher took time on the morning of Sept. 11 to reflect on its history and significance.
“Many of us students were not even born yet when the 9-11 occurred,” said Lesher, 17, of Alsip.
For the third straight year, the U.S. Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) at Shepard High School held a 9-11 Remembrance at the school, 13049 S Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights, giving students time to recognize the day’s magnitude.
“This is a way for us to honor the lives that were lost on that day and to pay respect,” Lesher said. “It is also a way for us to show future generations how important this day really is.”
The school has been honoring 9-11 for the past nine years, according to Shepard staff. However, the JROTC has been holding the remembrance ceremony for the past three years.
JROTC is a program offered to high schools that teaches students character education, student achievement, wellness, leadership and diversity. The 100 students in the program, under the guidance of Major Dan Johnson and Master Sergeant Chris Saberniak, held the event Tuesday for all other Shepard students and faculty members.
“There’s a lot of stories floating around about 9-11; hopefully this will be an opportunity to dispel some of the rumors and myths about the day,” said Johnson, Senior Aerospace Science instructor at Shepard. “Also, as we discuss this tragedy, students can connect to courageous accounts of first responders, passengers on airplanes and everyday people who went out of their way to save others in need.”
“I think the 9-11 event is beneficial to us students because it gives us the chance to realize how serious and how many people suffered on the day,” said Miracle Powell, 16, of Robbins.
The morning’s remembrance began with JROTC members reading off all of the names of the 2,983 victims who tragically lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001.
“This personalizes the tragedy,” Johnson said. “It is easy to say about 3,000 people were killed that day, but when you listen to those names being read, you realize these were sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of real people who did not come home that day.”
As the names were read, JROTC members walked 56 laps around the field for a total of 14 miles. JROTC units walk this distance often to remember the Bataan Death March, but also to honor victims of other tragedies and cruelties, according to JROTC instructors.
This year marks the 76th anniversary of the Bataan Death March, where Japanese soldiers oversaw the 85-mile forced march of captured American and Filipino soldiers during World War II. As many as 10,000 of the estimated 60,000 died along the way.
“I think students benefit from the walk because it allows them to connect with an event that didn’t even occur in their lifetime, and it gives them an opportunity to ask questions and learn from those who lived through that time,” Johnson said. “We came up with the idea for the walk three years ago, and the cadets were really excited about being able to do something more visible for the school to honor 9-11.”
“I enjoy that this allows us to be with the entire cadet corps, as well as shows the school that we still hold patriotism as one of our highest values,” said Luke Nolan, 16, of Alsip.
JROTC members were able to raise money at their own discretion for the walk to benefit Honor Flight Chicago. The organization chooses where to donate yearly, last year raising $500 towards hurricane relief, and previous years contributing to The Heart of a Marine Foundation.
“I enjoy working with other cadets to put together the 9-11 ceremony,” said Tyler Harvey, 17, of Worth. “I feel like this is beneficial to the school because it is a very somber event that brings recognition to the people who lost their lives.”