Friday, Sept. 9, 2011 | 2:28 p.m.
Map of Palo Verde
333 S. Pavilion Center Dr., Las Vegas
Today’s high school freshmen were still a year away from kindergarten on Sept. 11, 2001. The seniors were just in second grade.
But it was a group of students who organized and conducted a solemn ceremony at Palo Verde High School on Friday morning to remember those who died that day, including a teacher at the school.
The annual event is held at a memorial in a corner of the soccer field to honor Barbara Edwards, a German teacher who was on American Airlines Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon.
It not only honors the teacher long after her students have graduated, it teaches new generations about what happened that day in New York; Washington, D.C.; and Shanksville, Pa.
For most adults, the memory 10 years later is vivid. Where were you, we ask. What were you doing when you first heard?
But these students are barely able to remember.
“All I remember, it was just quiet” that day at school, said Cadet 1st Lt. Jordanli Pahuriray of the Palo Verde Junior Air Force ROTC, which conducted the ceremony.
She remembers watching the events unfold on TV in her second-grade classroom, sitting on carpet squares they used for reading time. But while Pahuriray said she was shocked at what she was watching, she wasn’t really sure what it was.
“We didn’t really understand what was going on,” said her colleague, Cadet Capt. Ryan Navarro.
Still, 10 years later, the ceremony was meaningful for them.
“It helps us remember that it was a tragic day and we have people who give their lives” for the country, Navarro said.
The two students are now leaders in the Junior ROTC program at Palo Verde and help run the ceremony. Although it was the fourth year they’ve attended the event, this time was different, Pahuriray said.
“This one kind of got to me. It’s the 10th anniversary and being a part of it,” she said, “it hit home for me.”
The event included a trumpet playing taps, a moment of silence and an honor guard from Nellis Air Force Base firing a salute.
Even though they didn’t know Edwards, the students said they think it is important to remember her and commemorate the event.
“A lot of teachers talk about Ms. Edwards a lot, in a respectful way,” Pahuriray said. “She made such an impact, I feel like I should give back.”
That’s exactly one of the goals of the teachers who do remember Edwards.
“My main concern is that we continue to remember those who lost their lives on 9/11 and those who paid the ultimate price for our country, wherever they are in the world,” said Gail Fahy, the foreign language department chairwoman who teaches French and Spanish.
“It’s wonderful we have ceremonies like this … We say we shall never forget, but I think as time goes people tend to. If it’s not in their face, it’s not important,” she said. “That’s what I hope for the future, that we’ll remember every day of our lives how important freedom is to us, how people have paid the ultimate price for freedom.”
Fahy was not only a colleague and supervisor of Edwards, they were best friends, she said.
Kevin Hagood, who teaches math and coaches soccer at Palo Verde, said he tries to keep the memory of Edwards alive each year, talking to his students about her as the anniversary approaches and explaining to his new players why there is a memorial near the field.
“As I talk to the kids now in the classroom — they were so young when all this happened — you try to relay the information,” he said. “We were all deeply affected by that because we all saw it happening on TV, but they have no recollection of what was going on, (or) if they do it’s very vague. You try to share the impact, but you also try to bring in the positives of what the people did to our community and our school community.”
He said Edwards was a “boisterous, loud, funny person, always cracking jokes.”
“The kids walked in her classroom every day with a smile on their faces and they walked out with a smile on their faces,” he said. “She was a very positive impact on them.”
Fahy said Edwards was “just the most happy, fun-loving person you’d ever want to meet.”
“They might not have known her,” she said of the students, “But Barbara was such a special person and such an advocate of foreign-language learning and travel for students and international exchange for students. She was just a wonderful ambassador for foreign language and for a lot of things, really.”
Edwards taught at the school from 1998 to 2001, Fahy said. “Just a short time, it seems, and yet, she touched so many lives, not just in Palo Verde but all over town.
“I tell the students every year who she was and how special she was.”