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Live internet video stream makes 9/11 events more real for Baldwin students

| Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, 3:07 p.m.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
Sunlight hits a student as he stands among classmates as they wait to say the 'Pledge of Allegiance' near the flagpole outside McClellan Elementary School in honor of the anniversary of 9/11 on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. Area first responders also were invited to the school for the program.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McClellan Elementary School kindergartner Grace Bishop stands with her hand over her heart among fellow students as they wait to say the 'Pledge of Allegiance' outside near the flagpole in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McClellan Elementary School second-graders Garrett Russen (from left), Blake Barchfeld and Jordan Jagnow recite the 'Pledge of Allegiance' outside near the flagpole in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McClellan Elementary School third-grader Laci Schmoter hands out homemade thank-you cards to Pleasant Hills police officers and area first responders during a program in honor of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 near the school's flagpole Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Kristina Serafini | Tribune-Review
McClellan Elementary School students are silhouetted by the sun as a teacher standing on the school's roof tries to get their attention for a photo during a program at the flagpole in honor of the anniversary of 9/11 on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Baldwin High School students listen to a live-streaming session from the September 11th Memorial in Shanksville, Friday, September 9, 2016.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Baldwin High School students listen to a live-streaming session from the September 11th Memorial in Shanksville, Friday, Sept. 9, 2016.
Brentwood Volunteer Fire Company chief engineer Tom Crowder (left) and 2nd Assistant Chief Scott Samarco stand in front of their fire engine while a passerby thanks them for all they do as volunteers during a September 11 tribute.
Brentwood Volunteer Fire Company chief engineer Tom Crowder adjusts the American flag draped over a fire engine during a September 11 tribute.
Brentwood Volunteer Fire Company 2nd Assistant Chief Scott Samarco lays out some turnout gear during a September 11 tribute.

David Johnston barely remembers Sept. 11, 2001.

He was 3 years old and recalls a lot of commotion.

“It was a day unlike any other,” said Johnston, now 18, a senior at Baldwin High School.

Yet the events that day forever changed the world around Johnston, he said, as two planes hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Two other hijacked planes crashed that day, one into the Pentagon and the other in Shanksville. More than 3,000 people died.

Students at Baldwin High School and J.E. Harrison Middle School joined peers from across Pennsylvania on Sept. 9 in the inaugural “Action to Honor” distance learning program via livestream video that took them live to the Shanksville site of the Flight 93 crash and memorial to learn first-hand from park rangers and family members about the attack. The program was through a partnership with the Flight 93 National Memorial, Internet2 and KINBER.

In Baldwin-Whitehall School District, ninth-graders are taught for several days each year in their social studies classes about the events of Sept. 11, said social studies teacher Adam Foote.

“They tend to be more shocked,” Foote said. “This is the first ninth-grade class that is learning it as more of a historical event, than something that happened in their lifetime.”

Many of this year's freshman class either were born around Sept. 11, 2001, or not yet born when the attacks happened, Foote said.

Having a connection, then, like livestreaming from the site of the crash, is all the more important, he said.

“It makes more of a connection for them,” Foote said. “It's not something in a far-off place. It's something that's an hour away. It's something that's easy for them to go see and experience.”

Hearing the stories that day left Baldwin High School senior Trenton Thieret, 17, speechless.

Students listened to the text of the final phone calls home from some of the passengers and flight attendants.

“I didn't know that there were phones on the plane. I didn't know they were calling home because I knew that cellphones weren't very popular,” said Jaycee Revo, 17, a Baldwin senior.

Students were taken to the memorial and along the final path of the flight, thanks to the internet.

“It was an awesome experience. It was almost like we were there,” said Johnston, who did a research paper on Sept. 11 and plans to go into the Navy — crediting, in part, the events of that day.

“The whole event really sparked a lot of people's patriotism and nationalism,” he said. “It made people stand up and want to join together.”

High school Principal Walter Graves said he hopes students learned that Sept. 11 included more than what happened in New York City that day and saw how local people were affected.

“There was more to it than just the Twin Towers,” Graves said. “Everyday people took charge and made a difference.”

As teachers and administrators talked about the event, Graves said, they all recalled where they were and what they were doing at the moment the first plane struck. The students have a different perspective.

“It makes you wonder what their ‘moment' is going to be in their lifetime,” Graves said. “Our parents had JFK and World War II and the Korean War and Vietnam. This is one of the defining moments in our lifetime. Wonder what theirs is going to be?”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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