The oldest children at Eastview Elementary School in Algonquin were only infants when two planes struck the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. But the entire school gathered at the flagpole on Friday to remember that day and honor local heroes with applause, cards of thanks and medals.
Over nine years of commemorating the events of 2001, Eastview Principal Jim Zursin said the focus of the ceremony has shifted to honoring members of the local community.
"I think it's a great way to show our appreciation and keep the job firefighters and police officers do fresh in our minds," Zursin said.
Eastview students have been preparing for the ceremony for weeks, making cards and memorizing the words to "America the Beautiful," which the entire school sang together.
Jo Olson's two children chose to make their cards for police officers. She said neither of her kids are old enough to truly understand what happened on Sept. 11, but she thinks the ceremony is important nonetheless.
"It teaches them respect," Olson said. "We talked about this last night. I told them the significance and that we should always remember."
There were 21 police officers and firefighters at the Friday morning ceremony and one war veteran. Though many have attended the ceremony for several years, the medals children placed around their necks Friday as a "Hero Award" were new. Officer John Matthiessen is a 20-year member of the Algonquin Police Department. He said his medal will take a special place next to other memorabilia.
"It's something I'm going to keep with me forever," he said. It's people like him who stood at the center of Friday's ceremony - people who were not in New York on Sept. 11 but who represent the heroism they exemplified. As Zursin addressed the crowd, he called on everyone to honor the memories of those who died in the terrorist attacks but to do one more thing:
"To honor those heroes, present here today, who stand ready to offer their lives for us on any given day."