Wasatch Elementary School invited the United Way and the Hill Air Force Base honor guard, and base volunteers, to a special assembly on Sept. 11, as part of the new school year in a brand new school building.
The 9-11 Grant reading program partnered with Wasatch Elementary School and United Way for the special Sept. 11 proceedings.
Officials from this program typically invite local police, fire and Hill Air Force Base representatives to read to students from books about giving and on service to others, said Sally Carter, volunteer coordinator with the United Way of Northern Utah, who was in charge of the event.
Thirty volunteers from Hill Air Force Base came to participate and were present for an assembly. The Hill Honor Guard performed the raising of the flag outside the school as an introduction to the events. Because Gov. Gary Herbert had requested all flags be flown at half-mast on Sept. 11, in remembrance of the 2001 events, the flag was raised to the top and then lowered to midway point. The pledge of allegiance was recited and classes entered the glass doors to the brand new auditorium for the assembly.
Camille Mortensen, sister to Brady Howell, who was killed Sept. 11,
2001, at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., spoke to the students about why she considered her brother a hero. Growing up in Sugar City, Idaho, Brady loved to read "Encyclopedia Brown" and other detective stories and when he was in the fourth grade he formed a detective club with his friends.
She said he and his friends wrote a letter to the president offering to help solve any mysteries that the leaders might not be able to figure out.
Mortensen said her brother, a Navy Intelligence Watch officer, who was killed at the Pentagon, wasn't a hero just because he was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, while he was at work.
"He set a goal and he made it happen," she said. He worked hard in school so when it was time to decide on a career he was able to become an intelligence officer, she explained.
Mortensen urged all the students to take the opportunity to look at the books that day and if they saw something they might like to be that they might remember to work hard, not just say, "Oh, I wish I could do that."
She said, "Pick something that you can work really, really hard in your life that's your dream, just like Brady did."
Lt. Gov. Greg Bell gave an account of the events on Sept. 11 to the kids after asking them if anyone there was 12 years old. When one hand went up, he then asked if anyone there was 11 years old. A lot of hands went up in the sixth grade class. Bell explained that 11 years ago, bad guys had hurt and killed people with four airplanes and then went into a brief and simplified account of how the bad guys had hurt Americans that day.
He asked them to remember the way the honor guard members raised the flag with their white gloves and how much respect they showed the flag.
"We remember the time 11 years ago when the world changed forever," Bell said. He thanked the military members from Hill AFB and said we should all be grateful for our military -- always.
He praised military members for their unselfishness and how at a moment's notice they could be called on to go somewhere and not even know where they were going. He also talked about that when they served they were not always in comfortable locations.
Col. Kraig Hanson, 75th Mission Support Group commander, greeted the young people and explained to the students that the visitors from Hill Air Force Base would be talking about their jobs, how they serve their country, as well as reading stories. "We are excited to be here today, and help you learn and enjoy as we talk a little bit about the Air Force," he said.
The lieutenant governor made a special presentation of a flag that had flown over the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, the Utah Capitol building and at Hill Air Force Base. Principal Janet Sumner received the special framed flag with its accompanying certificates showing where the flag had flown.
Hans Hjelde, from Snowbasin, and his avalanche rescue dog, Pivot, came into the auditorium and the fourth-grade students got a chance to remain in the auditorium to hear about Hjelde and Pivot, before they returned to their classrooms as the other grades had previously done.
"It was an exciting day for the volunteers. The raising of the flag by the Hill Honor Guard and then bringing it down to half-mast in honor of 9/11 was something I feel Wasatch Elementary School will always remember," said Judith Maughan, Hill AFB school liaison officer.
Principal Sumner said that after the assembly and the description of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, it was good that the volunteers from Hill Air Force Base were able to go into the classrooms and answer any questions the children might have. "Many of the teachers and other adults in the building came up to me and expressed their feeling that it was a great event," she said.
Sumner said the students really seemed to like Mortensen's memories of her brother. "It helped them think of him as a real person."
Carter, United Way volunteer coordinator, explained that the United Way partners with many schools to hold assemblies such as these. She thanked Jeff Rodseth, retired Air Force colonel, her co-worker, Beverlee Campbell, and Judith Maughan, for taking on the work of this particular partnership event.
"Jeff is always our driving force when it comes to these assemblies; he makes them special for each school we visit," said Carter.
"I love it when things like this come together," she said.
The 9-11 Grant reading program was formerly funded by the Utah Commission on Volunteers. This year the program is being funded through United Way Community Impact in Northern Utah in an effort to continue the program.