Alabama Students Touching New York
In the weeks and months since the tragedies of September 11th, there have been countless stories of inspiration, heroism, and compassion. Stories of a nation united in grief – responding to a horrible act of terrorism. The support for fellow Americans is as apparent in Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District as it is in every other community in this strong nation.
It is hard to choose just one story to represent the compassion found in our district. However, there may be few better stories than that which started at Union Grove Elementary School in Marshall County last fall.
The 200 students there are a world away from those directly touched by the tragedies in New York, Northern Virginia, and Pennsylvania. But that did not stop these students from reaching out to those they did not even know.
In October and November, 2001, the students designed and created an American flag to honor New York’s victims of September 11th. What made this extra special was the fact that the entire image was composed of hand prints; hand prints from every child in the school, grades kindergarten through fourth. The hand prints represent the best efforts of the students to "touch" the people who were so devastated in New York and throughout the country. What made it even more special was that that very flag made it all the way to New York City.
The flag's long journey from Marshall County, Alabama, to Staten Island, New York, began when Union Grove’s students and teachers held a special Veterans Day program in November to present the flag to State Representative Jeffrey McLaughlin, who represents Marshall County in the Alabama Legislature.
Representative McLaughlin took the flag to his Statehouse office, and on the last day of this past legislative session, presented it to Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett. For that entire day’s legislative proceedings, the flag was displayed on the House floor.
The next week, the flag made it to my Washington office. Wanting the flag to be appreciated by those for whom it was intended, I passed it on to New York Representative Vito Fossella, who represents Staten Island and Brooklyn in the United States House of Representatives.
He, along with students from St. Sylvestor’s School on Staten Island, presented the flag to firefighters of New York Fire Department’s Rescue 5. Rescue 5 is one of the department’s most elite units and, sadly, lost eleven heroes on September 11th.
The flag is now back in the hands of students at Union Grove Elementary School. An effort, and tribute that says as much about the September 11th tragedies as it does about the compassion, and consideration found in Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.