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On Sept. 11, 2001, two passenger planes were crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York; another hit the Pentagon near Washington D.C. and a fourth plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. The Sept. 11 attacks left 2,996 people dead and more than 10,000 injured.

Monday marked the 16th anniversary of the attacks, and residents around Beatrice took time to remember those killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

It has been 16 years since that day--a few years longer than the students in Ben Essam’s eighth grade history class have been alive. 

Beginning in the sixth grade, students of Beatrice Public Schools get to learn about the 9/11 attacks.

On Monday, the class watched “102 Minutes That Changed America,” a documentary that relays the events of 9/11 in New York through news footage and amateur videos from that day.

The students watched as the first plane crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center. A second plane crashed into the south tower about 18 minutes later.

“I got sad and scared for everybody there,” said eighth grade student Shayla Dowd.

“I've seen videos of this,” said Madison Coffin, also in eighth grade and whose brother was born on September 11, 2001. “It made me think of how many lives were lost.”

Last year, the students learned how the planes were hijacked and this year they watched the video on the attacks that brought down the towers, Essam said.

“We try to go in order of how things happened,” he said. “So when they walk out of middle school, they have a greater understanding of what happened and why it happened, and why we have the security measures we have today.”

Beatrice Middle School teacher Mike Policky said that for kids who were born after 9/11, it’s a challenge to explain the significance of the attacks.

The fear and uncertainty that followed the attacks changed the country, he said, it changed the world. The aftershocks from 9/11 can still be felt every time kids go to the airport and encounter heightened security, or have to go through metal detectors at concerts and sporting events, he said.

After watching the video, Policky said students are asked to reflect on it. They’re asked about their emotions as they watched the attacks, how they feel and how their life has been impacted in any way by the event that happened several years before they were born.

“We talk about the psychological scarring of people that, if you ask someone who was alive during this event, they can exactly tell you where they were,” Policky said. “Similar to, in the older generation, where were people at when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. They know. It leaves that psychological scar, it's burned to memory.”

The Kensington in downtown Beatrice held a remembrance ceremony for the victims lost that day.

After a flag ceremony in front of the old Paddock building, featuring the national anthem and a rendition of “God Bless America” sung by Garold Kleveland, the assembled crowd headed inside for cookies and conversation.

It was a larger ceremony last year, said Sue Ann Henning, family advisor at the Kensington. The Legion Riders made an appearance last year, but this year's ceremony was just as important.

Two members of the C Troop 1-134 Cavalry Squadron based out of the Beatrice National Guard Armory volunteered to carry the flag.

Sergeant Jared Collins and Specialist Triston Grieger took time to talk with residents and guests following the ceremony. Both could remember the events of 9/11, though Grieger was young at the time.

“I was in eighth grade,” Collins said. “I'm 29, so I remember very explicitly.”

“I'm 20, so I remember,” Grieger said. “They played it on the TV for us, I was in kindergarten. That's about it.”

The Kensington is home to multiple World War II veterans, including Lawrence Workman, who enlisted in the Navy in 1944. He served in the South Pacific and was on amphibious personnel carriers in Okinawa just after the war ended. His memories of Pearl Harbor aren’t vivid, but he said that when the towers fell on 9/11, it was a tragedy.

Garold Kleveland sat and talked with veterans of World War II and the Korean War after his performance and the ceremony, reflecting on the events that took place 16 years ago.

“That was a pretty important day,” he said. “I don't think we had the patriotic feeling since World War II until 9/11.”


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