"The flag at the front of our school building is at half-mast in honor of those individuals who went into that fire, who stood up in that plane and said, 'Let's roll.' In their honor we are here today," said Dumas Junior High School (DJHS) teacher Kevin Smith Wednesday to a crowd gathered at the school to commemorate the18th anniversary of the September 11, 2001terrorist attack that took down the World Trade Center and destroyed part of the Pentagon, killing more than 3000 people in the process. A little over 640 Jr. High students joined teachers, local first responders, and others to sing, pray, listen to speakers, and pay tribute to those who died on that day. Smith was the featured speaker. "You were too young, or you were not born at this time. There are teachers who can tell you exactly where they were," he told the students. Smith recounted the details of that day, what it meant to those who were alive at the time, and what it meant to them. "You are a part of this. You are a part of our culture, and our culture stands for resilience," he said. He spoke of unity and the response to tragedy. "Something meant to tear us apart, ended up bringing us together in a more solidified, unified manner. We are all Americans, all of us." He pointed to the flags from the United States, Texas, and the various armed services flying around him and talked about symbolism. "The flag represents a community; it represents a people. These flags should be honored; they stand for something."
First responders were a focus of the ceremony. Smith drew parallels between the fire fighters, police, and emergency medical personnel who died trying to help others on 9-11and the local first responders today who put themselves in danger to serve the community. Representatives of the Dumas Police Department, Dumas Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, the Moore County Sheriff's Office and local veterans (including Bruce Milbern, Doel Cordero, and Allen Dean, who are scheduled to take an Honor Flight soon to Washington, D. C. to visit the nation's national war memorials) were given a place of honor at the ceremony and were recognized by Smith and others. At the end, they formed two lines in front of the southwest door to the school, and students walked between them shaking hands and fist bumping as they reentered the school.
Among the other high points Wednesday, members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9022 posted the colors at the beginning of the ceremony and retired them at the end. DJHS band director James Carter played taps on a cornet, and choir director Kip White led his students in a rendition of God Bless America. Members of the Dumas Fire Department rang a bell in tribute to the fallen.
The ceremony took place next to a memorial to the victims and heros of 9-11 that was constructed on the DJHS campus a short time after the events of that day took place. According to DJHS Assistant Principal Stan Williams, the school conducts a 9-11 commemoration every two years so that each student gets to participate once.
Finally, DJHS Principal Kurt Baxter encouraged the students to make a positive contribution to the school. He said they should follow the example of the first responders and strive to be "servant/leaders," concerned with the welfare of others. "We love you and appreciate you," he concluded before sending his students back to class through lines of first responders
Sergeant Ricky Casanova of the Moore County Sheriff's Office was headed to the reception the school held for the first responders after the ceremony. He had just greeted hundreds of seventh and eighth graders as they went back to class. He was impressed by the morning's events. "I think it was good. It was neat that they put this on for the Jr. High kids. Even though they weren't born … they will still remember 9-11. It was awesome," he said.