Sept. 11'S Impact On Today's Students

IN MEMORY

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Payson High School teacher Wendell Stevens was duly impressed when a group of students came to him with an idea for commemorating Sept. 11.

"These students felt that 9-11 needed to be a positive day," Stevens, an agriculture teacher, said.

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Sixth-graders Tyler Savage, Shane Keith and Nic Creighton of Rim Country Middle School work on their addition to the school's Sept. 11 exhibit. This chicken-wire fence, covered in red, white and blue crepe paper, will become part of the memorial during the district's commemoration event.

What the students proposed was a food drive hosted by the Future Farmers of America. The event would be staged in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the donated food would stay right here in the Rim country to replenish local food banks.

After getting Stevens' okay, the students obtained the necessary permissions from the PHS student council and principal, and their food drive is now under way. Collection boxes for non-perishable food donations are located at Safeway, Bashas' and Sav-Mor Foods and will stay there through Sept. 11.

The students behind the drive are PHS seniors Sarah Chasse, Nena Lubbers and Trish Waldron, and freshmen Krystle Connolly and Laci Riggins.

All five of the students say they were permanently affected by the events of Sept. 11. In fact, each still remembers precisely where she was when she heard the news that fateful day.

Connolly's experience is typical:

"I was at home getting ready for school and my mom, dad and brother were sitting on the couch," she said. "I heard my mom start yelling, 'What's going on?' I ran in there just in time to see the second plane crash. I was in shock and wishing it never happened."

Lubbers didn't find out about the events until she got to school Sept. 11.

"I normally watch the news every morning before I go to school, but that morning I was running late," she said. "I got into the school parking lot and everyone was standing around with their radios on. As I walked to class, all the teachers had their TVs on. When I got to my first hour my teacher explained it to me and I didn't believe it. We spent the whole hour watching TV. It was very, very different."

With a year for the events of Sept. 11 to sink in, the five PHS students can now talk freely about what they've learned and how their lives have changed. What emerges from their remarks is a wariness tempered by a somewhat surprising element of determination and resolve.

"I'm kind of scared of 9-11 now," Waldron said, "because you never know if they're going to do it again. You kind of look at your surroundings more carefully now. Even though Payson is a long way away, there is always the chance of something happening here. I'm more careful now."

The students say that living through Sept. 11 has given them a better perspective than just hearing their parents and grandparents talk about World War II and Vietnam.

"I know our generation never experienced a war firsthand," Lubbers said. "Our fathers were involved in the military and stuff like that, but we never experienced it. Watching those tapes over and over again that they kept showing, it takes away the security you have in the back of your mind that you can just wake up and go to school."

At least one student believes the incident has resulted in a loss of innocence.

"It's made me think to take my life a lot more seriously," Connolly said.

Flying since Sept. 11 has been an especially telling experience for the PHS students.

"I usually get on (a plane) and just fall asleep, but now I stay awake," Chasse said. "I'm very aware of who's getting on the plane."

"We went to the national (FFA) convention right after Sept. 11, and I was kind of classifying people," Waldron said. "But I felt (safer) because they had all this security. In all actuality, you're probably safer to go on a plane now than before."

Increased airport security is just one of several positives the students believe came out of the tragedy. Another is a renewed patriotism.

"My family's always been patriotic," Chasse said. "Even before 9-11, we always did the flag. We take the Fourth of July very seriously.... But after 9-11, it made my dad really happy to see all these people coming out of the woodwork with the flags because our family has always been worried that patriotism has gone away. It kind of renewed my belief in America."

Chasse also believes Americans are actually more confident as a result of what happened.

"Now that we've been through it, we know we can do it again," she said. "I think people realize now that they can't hide behind the government. We, as a people, need to stand up and do our share to protect our country."

To do her share, Chasse is even considering the military as a future option.

"Before this happened, I would never have considered a military career because that's just not my style," she said. "But every person has a duty to their country and I think I will seriously consider going into one of the branches of the military so I can do my part."

For the most part, the students also agree that they now place a higher value on their freedom than they did before.

"You should never take your freedom for granted, because you never know when it could disappear," Lubbers said.

Far from being demoralized by the events that day, the students talked of a new enthusiasm for life.

"I'm happy to be here and I view each new day as a blessing," Riggins said. "I take each day one at a time."

Lubbers agreed.

"Everything happens for a reason," she said. "Maybe this was a wake-up call."

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