West Iredell High cadets remember 9/11, honor first responders
Photos by students Julia Williams, Mary Mowbray and Meg Tillery.
West Iredell High School’s Junior ROTC cadets hosted a special 9/11 ceremony honoring first responders and served them breakfast afterwards on Wednesday.
BY KARISSA MILLER
West Iredell High School students paused Wednesday morning to remember the victims of the 9-11 terror attacks and to honor the first responders who serve our community day in and day out.
The ceremony was organized and led by the school’s Junior ROTC students.
Senior cadets Jenny Jones and Travis Lambert, who serve as captains in their ROTC, were the co-organizers of this year’s event.
Around 20 first responders, dressed in uniform, and the entire student body were in attendance.
The ROTC’s Honor Guard presented and raised the American flag, which was followed by the playing of the National Anthem.
Cadet Miranda Hall read a poem that described the collapse of buildings, destruction and the nearly 3,000 deaths that occurred after terrorists hijacked and flew airplanes into the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. A fourth jet crashed in Pennsylvania.
Cadets also shared a story about Michael Hingson, who was 78 stories up when the plane crashed into the first tower at the World Trade Center.
Hingson, who is blind, felt the building sway back and forth and knew something was wrong.
Relying on his guide dog, Hingson remained calm, got out safely and helped others, too.
Planning with a Purpose
Cadets Jones and Lambert felt it was important to remember what happened on 9/11, and they wanted a way to help their peers understand, too.
Since many of the West Iredell High students were not alive on Sept. 11, 2001, Jones and Lambert designed the event so that both the entire student body and first responders in the community could attend.
“For the students, a lot of them did have relatives that were [impacted] in some way or who are first responders or are in the military,” Jones explained. “For them, it tells them that we care about their community as well as our community’s family.”
Lambert learned that it’s important to be intentional when presenting the ROTC values to their classmates for the message to stick.
“The most moving part was the Honor Guard raising the flags up because that’s one of the most important parts. Then the National Anthem and then when ‘Taps’ was played,” Lambert said.
Their hard work paid off.
West Iredell students could be spotted turning to acknowledge first responders in attendance and thanking them at the end of the program.
Local first responder reflects on 9/11
Among the first responders honored was Sgt. Gina Cranford of the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.
“I love the fact that students initiate and they find it important enough to understand something that happened 18 years ago,” Cranford said.
Cranford was working for the Taylorsville Police Department when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
The attacks killed almost 3,000 people, including many firefighters, police officers and rescue crew personnel.
She remembers hoping that the breaking news report was just an accident. She later learned that those planes that crashed were a part of a terrorist attack.
“It scared me. My best friend was a flight attendant for U.S. Air and my sister had a traveling job and was in New Mexico and was scheduled to fly back that day,” Cranford recalled.
Fortunately, both her friend and sister were safe. Cranford has dedicated her life to serving others through a career in law enforcement that has spanned more than 25 years.
Cranford went through basic law enforcement in 1993. She said her dad is retired from the military and influenced her career decision.
Cranford is the supervisor of all ICSO school resource officers in Iredell-Statesville Schools.