HANOVERTON- A group of United students has received unexpected recognition after writing letters to area safety service agencies last month, thanking the personnel for being heroes.
The 11 students in Nancy Miller's English class each wrote letters to the New York police and fire departments in addition to the local agencies as part of their 9/11 remembrance curriculum, spending a week preparing the letters before mailing them. The letters thanked the firefighters and officers for being heroes and saving lives every day, not just on 9/11.
The students received a big surprise when two weeks later a representative from the NYPD responded in a letter, addressing each one individually and thanking them for "keeping the sacrifices of 9/11 alive in the minds of our young people."
Phillip Banks III, chief of community affairs, responding on behalf of Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, told the students their letters had been posted on the department's bulletin board for everyone to read.
"It's really cool because I didn't expect a reply to each of us, so it shows that they actually read them," said senior Kenny Beeson, explaining that the letter included a response to something each student had written.
"The letters said thank you, thank you for serving, thank you for being responsible for our lives," said junior Tabbie Marshall. "[The response] made me feel I was safe in my own homeland, that we have workers to protect us."
Even though most of the students, all in ninth through 12th grade, are too young to remember vividly the events of 9/11, each can appreciate with age the heroism of those who gave and risked their lives that day and those who continue to do so today.
And that is what makes the response from the NYPD so much more meaningful for the students.
"I don't really remember much about 9/11, but (through the letters) I got to see how it affected those who were a part of it," said sophomore James Ingledue.
According to Miller, the teachers at United incorporate 9/11 curriculum into the classroom each September to show how it affected the country. In her class the students talk about the history of the tragedy, the people who died and how the safety service personnel chose to risk their lives that day.
"Why we do the project is to keep the memory of that event alive," she explained. "We're getting to the point with students who don't really remember any of it. If we don't continue to talk about it, it will be lost.
"We seem to appreciate the effort, but not take the time to appreciate [the workers]."
In addition to the NYPD, three other local agencies also responded while one fire department even visited the class.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org