Caribou High School honors sacrifices made on 9/11

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou High School began a 9/11 remembrance week on Tuesday, Sept. 8, with an event featuring the Caribou Fire and Ambulance Department, Caribou Police Department, and the Maine Army National Guard. 

Valerie Waldemarson, JMG master specialist at Caribou High School, said the event was held to honor all of the frontline workers in the local community to help give students more perspective on the impact of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and to honor those in the community who put their lives on the line every day. 

“Instead of having a quiet moment of silence, we decided to have this in front of them, so they can see our first responders, and the flag being raised,” she said.

The event was held in accordance with social distancing guidelines, with a handful of people representing each department, and a few school staff and administrators outside. Students in school and learning from home were able to view a livestream of the ceremony Tuesday morning.

Waldemarson said she believes it is important to educate students about the impact of Sept. 11, and what the United States went through as a country in the aftermath. She said it is particularly important as this year marks the first time in which all of the students were born after the attacks, with last year’s senior class being born in 2001.

“They were born into tragedy and they graduated during a pandemic,” she said of last year’s senior class.

CARIBOU, Maine — September 8, 2020 — Caribou High School student Afton Marker sings the national anthem during a 9/11 remembrance ceremony held outside the school.  (Courtesy of Sha-Lam Photography)

Caribou High School Principal Eric McGough, who also serves in the Maine National Guard, welcomed everyone to the ceremony, which began with Caribou Fire and Ambulance Chief Scott Susi and Caribou Police Chief Michael Gahagan raising the flag as Caribou High School student Afton Marker sang the national anthem.

“As we begin our week of remembering those who lost their lives in this tragic event, we must celebrate the brave women who rose to the occasion and helped us pick up the pieces as a nation,” he said. “This brings to mind the heroes who serve every day in our own community.”

He encouraged all in attendance and watching remotely to take the time to thank the men and women being recognized, many of which are alumni of Caribou High School.

“Let there be no question that it is the daily service and sacrifice of our local frontline heroes that help to make our town a great place to live,” the principal said.

RSU 39 Superintendent Tim Doak said it was an honor to stand before those gathered and recognize first responders and essential workers, adding that it is unfortunate that this is traditionally done only one day out of the year.

“First responders are the backbone of any community, and right here in Caribou we’re truly proud of the service they do for our schools and our community,” Doak said. “They make us feel safe as we go to sleep at night, knowing that we have men and women who take part in keeping us safe and maintaining our lives here in Caribou.”

Chief Susi thanked the school on behalf of the city’s first responders for the invitation.

“It’s upsetting that we only do this once a year, but we remember all the people, 343 firefighters and 37 police officers, who lost their lives,” he continued. “I’m very humbled to be part of such a very small and unique group of people. We truly enjoy serving our community and the school, and I’d like to thank you all for this.”

Waldemarson said she has started with curriculum exercise surrounding 9/11, and that she let the class watch former president George W. Bush’s speech following the attacks and asked them if they felt a calling afterwards and what that speech meant to them. 

“A lot of the students said they never really considered working in the frontline, but that they can see the value after learning about them and seeing them on the news,” she said. “When you’re talking to kids transitioning into adulthood, their perspectives change. One of the things they acknowledged is that they are grateful to those who chose this as their profession.”

Following the event, Waldemarson said every one of the frontline workers thanked the school for hosting the event, and that they appreciated the recognition. She said the school will continue focusing on the impact of 9/11 and the importance of frontline workers for the remainder of the week.

“9/11 may be on Friday, but instead of just having a morning ceremony, we wanted to make it into something so much more, and we extended it throughout the week,” she said.


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