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Students mark 9/11 anniversary

Greensburg Salem Middle School students sat in fidget-less silence as they watched a montage of news clips showing the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, including footage of the second plane cutting through the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

More than 600 students gathered on Friday morning in the school auditorium for an assembly to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The program featured news reports, still photos of emergency response efforts and descriptions of the events, with a focus on the United Airlines Flight 93 crash in Somerset County, read by student government officers.

Stephanie Voytek, an eighth-grader, said she didn't know much about the attacks until the school assembly when she was in sixth grade. She records and watches every TV special on the attacks that she can find.

"We knew it was a tragic day, but not how many planes" were involved or other details of what happened that day, Voytek said.

Students around the region commemorated the 10th anniversary with guest speakers, videos, moments of silence and projects using the American flag.

Stewartsville Elementary students in the Norwin School District gathered to sing patriotic songs and hear stories from North Huntingdon police Officer Bill Sombo, who went to ground zero immediately after the attacks with his police dog and several other K-9 officers.

At St. Vincent College, senior Taylor Guido led the Student Government Association in planting 3,000 flags in the grass lining an entrance drive on the Unity campus. Guido said she got the idea when she and other student officers were in New York for a conference.

"We just wanted to do something to show that St. Vincent cares and just to take a moment to reflect on what happened," Guido said.

At Seton Hill University in Greensburg, about two dozen students, faculty members and staff gathered for a prayer and candle-lighting memorial that included Christian and Muslim prayers for peace.

Participants shared memories of that day, recalling the clear, sunny weather that contrasted so starkly with the day's dark events, while others described the scene on Seton Hill's campus as students with ties to New York and Washington desperately tried to reach their relatives.

Jack Ciak, a communications professor who was working on Wall Street that day, said he remembers more than 200 people standing in line outside a downtown hospital waiting to give blood. Not knowing how else to help, people flocked to the hospital, he said.

"Ten years later, I didn't think I'd feel this intensely, but I do," Ciak said.

For Jonathan Keslar, the events of Sept. 11 were a call to action. A home-schooled high school student at the time, Keslar said he felt fear, anger and hurt that someone had attacked his country. He joined the Air Force in 2006 and later suffered a leg injury. He now uses a cane.

"In my four years of service, I was only fortunate to do one tour of service," Keslar said. "At first, I was really depressed. At the same time, I knew I had done what I set out to do. I had done what I was called to do."

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