Photo by Aaron Ricca.
KINGMAN – It was a last minute idea that blew into a great idea.
Girl Scout Troop 2074 leader and Kingman Middle School math teacher Cathy Nowicki turned hers and her fellow teachers’ 9/11 experiences into an educational opportunity for local middle school students.
The troop, their families and friends, members of the KMS band, Kingman police and firefighters, AMR paramedics, Mayor Monica Gates, Mohave County Supervisor Jean Bishop and Arizona State Representative Regina Cobb converged on Firefighter’s Memorial Park Monday evening to remember the events of 9/11 and recognize the services of first responders and the military.
“I see a lot of students before me who weren’t even alive the day the attacks happened,” said Gates.
Nowicki was an eighth grader in 2001, and was planning to visit the New York City a few months into 2002.
“Instead of seeing the World Trade Center, we saw the aftermath,” she said. “Remembering that is what kind of set this whole deal off.”
Nowicki now teaches eight graders about the experiences of that day.
She came up with the memorial service in August and posted her idea on Facebook, but the word didn’t get out until last week.
“When word got out that I wanted to do something, everyone jumped on board,” Nowicki said.
She and fellow social studies and English teachers had their students create art projects and write essays about their thoughts on 9/11, some of which were displayed and recited at Monday’s memorial.
“Heroes of the past inspire the heroes of the future,” said eighth-grader Evan Martinez.
The gratitude continued.
“It is important for us to remember the heroes of our past and present,” said eighth-grader Jason Riley in his essay to first responders. “One reason to remember our heroes is so that we make the right decisions when (we’re) placed in the same situation.”
KFD Chief Jake Rhoades said he was on honor guard funeral details for 13 New York Fire Department firefighters killed that day.
“It’s highly significant to see kids here today who hadn’t been born yet,” he said.
KPD Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper also addressed the small crowd over the screams of sirens in the background.
“It’s times of tragedy like 9/11 that brings communities together,” he said.
Communities bonding was a running theme.
“There are many times we as Americans can be divisive,” Cobb said. “9/11 was an example of Americans coming together.”
Seventh grader Arian Ruedas, 13, only learned of the horrific details during the last few weeks of social studies at KMS.
“I learned that a lot of people got hurt,” she said. “And that after the second plane hit, everyone knew it was a terrorist attack.”
Grandmother Jeanette Gonzales explained Ruedas’ 9/11 educational timeline.
“We had a small amount of discussion, but figured we’d talk more when she was older,” she said.
Toward the end of the service, the Girl Scouts and middle schoolers thanked and shook hands with firefighters, police and military veterans. Almost 20 years later, a sense of pride still stands strong.
“This is still the safest and proudest country in the world to live in,” Gates said.