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Too young to remember; old enough to make positive change

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GROTON — Water flows downward, falling into the twin pools resting in the original footprints of the World Trade Center’s twin towers.

The names of those who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001, are carved into the memorial railings. They include the Hanson family from Groton, Peter, Sue Kim, and two-year-old Christine. They were on their way to visit the Kim family when they boarded United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston to Los Angeles.

Student members of the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club visited the site, arriving to view the recently opened National September 11 Memorial museum in New York City.

It was the day before the students were to have private audience with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The club wanted to discuss the possibility of its Big Book: Pages for Peace being exhibited at the United Nations. The visit to the 9/11 site by BMDC members, club advisor Betsy Sawyer and several chaperones reminded them why they have been working on this project for 11 years.

Current Groton-Dunstable Regional High School students as well as a number of college students, all former members of the BMDC, have remained engaged in the Big Book: Pages for Peace project. The huge book — a collection of letters, poems, and artwork from people all over the world — is in its final printing stages, ready for a permanent spine, a page turning mechanism, and its cover.

The first stop for the Bookmakers and Dreamers Club after traveling on a recent Wednesday afternoon was Neconsett, Long Island, home to the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park. Students spoke with John Feal of the Feal Good Foundation and presented a memorial wreath in remembrance of those who helped the injured, rescued the fallen, and cleaned up the debris resulting from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Honoring these men and women, who risked their lives to help others that day, the 9/11 Responders Remembered Park has been dedicated so that their heroic actions will never be forgotten.

On Thursday morning, students stepped off their bus, arriving at the National September 11 Memorial building in New York City, diminutive in the shadow of the recently completed One World Trade Center Freedom Tower. They were escorted into the museum, its primary gallery space 70 feet below ground, where the foundations of the original World Trade Center twin towers once stood.

Groton-Dunstable fifth-grade students were invited into an education center to learn about the tragic events and what happened in the days, months and years following the attacks. Playing the role of detectives, the students were given a kit with photographs, pens and study guides, in which questions were asked, such as, “What was the World Trade Center?” “What was 9/11 and what happened on that day?” “How did people respond?”

They worked together to analyze the evidence, realizing that a great number of people were in the streets of NYC that day. The magnitude of the events began to hit home.

The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students were asked by their classroom guide, “Where were you on 9/11?” Sixth-grader Ryan Mosscrop answered, “My mom and dad were not even in the country! They were on their honeymoon,” implying that he was not yet even born, to which the guide responded, “And I was approximately your age. I was just starting seventh-grade in Connecticut.”

While simultaneously presenting a slide show, she provided a timeline of events that occurred on 9/11, beginning at 8:46 a.m. with the first plane hitting the North Tower and ending 102 minutes later with its collapse. The students learned about the subsequent events during that window of time.

Tours of the National September 11 Memorial followed the educational discussions. The artifacts were overwhelming and eye-opening, providing a realistic examination of all that the students previously witnessed in the form of news stories on television, in the newspapers or in books.

A bent and mangled three-story piece of “Impact Steel,” that once solidified the 96th through 99th floors of the North Tower, gave investigators the ability to understand what happened to the structure from the speed of the aircraft, the intensity of the heat and the angle of the collision. At the conclusion of a three-year study, evidence proved that the South Tower collapsed first due to the second plane’s impact being both into a corner of the building, having a greater structural impact, and at a greater speed than the first plane. Those factors, combined with it crashing into a lower floor, thus having greater material weight above the point of impact, caused the building to implode first.

The students moved on to see remnants of the Ladder Company 3 fire truck, finding it difficult to tell the front of the truck from the back due to the extent of the damage. Again, the students learned about the heroism and loss of life as the entire company went into the burning buildings to rescue victims, only to become victims themselves as the towers collapsed. The guide talked about the use of what was left of the stairwells after the 99 elevators in each building were all shut down.

Statistics were a part of the guide’s discussions. “An estimated 17,400 people had arrived for work at the World Trade Center that day; while 2,977 lives were lost, including 441 First Responders, over 14,000 people got out due to effective evacuation procedures and valiant rescue efforts.”

Coming from the towns of Groton and Dunstable, with a combined population of fewer than 13,000 people, these numbers were staggering.

Yet, for these students, there were stories of heroism, great moments of courage, an understanding of human compassion and the desire to help others in need.

The day’s lessons put their Big Book: Pages for Peace into better perspective. The stories inspired them even more to share the Big Book with its world-wide thoughts on peace, diplomacy, tolerance and words of wisdom in dealing with conflict resolution, and advice in helping attain human dignity for all.

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