Column and photos by Kelsey Flanik, London Middle School
What started as an “I need to do something different this year” morphed into one of the most proud moments of my teaching career. Every school year I felt like I was doing the same lesson about the attacks on 9/11. Students just weren’t engaged and it wasn’t meaningful. With this year being the 20th anniversary I realized I need to come up with something new that would have a true impact on my students.
I began doing some research and I landed on the idea of creating a lesson that incorporated American flags. Then that moved to finding a way to get 2,977 flags donated (one flag for each life lost). My plan was to have our 8th grade Social Studies plant those flags on school grounds in honor of the 20th anniversary. I reached out to local American Legion’s and was eventually contacted by Jennifer Moore from Madison County Veteran Services. After she reached out to me, I knew this whole idea could come to life.
I filled my principal, Michael Belmont, in on my plan and he was instantly excited about the possibility of what we could do with this. We began sketching out some ideas on a whiteboard and started thinking about who else we could involve from the community in the tribute, which is when we thought about our first responders. We contacted the London Police Department, London Fire Department and EMTs. All were thrilled to be a part of our tribute that would take place on September 10th! From this point it became a waiting game on the flags, which created some nerves but once we received them we plotted out a grid system for how the flags would look outside. During their Social Studies classes, on September 9th I helped students make a connection to what the flags represented. That each flag represents a person who had a family, friends…people who loved them and cared about them. After we had some discussions I had students help me count out the flags for each of their class periods and then we headed outside to begin planting the flags in the ground. I was so proud of how respectful they were during the whole process.
Around 12:30 on September 10th, first responders had arrived and began setting up for the photograph. This is when it hit me that this was really happening. It was an incredibly moving moment for me to see it all come together. Once first responders were ready to go, our students began to file outside to get in position for the picture.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be able to do something like this for our students as well as our community! It truly was an honor.