Herberg Middle School marks 9/11 with 'National Anthem Sing-a-Long'

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Photo Gallery | Herberg students National Anthem Sing-A-Long

PITTSFIELD — It was a warm, sunny day on Friday — much like it was on Sept. 11, 2001.

The staff and students of Herberg Middle School assembled in the school's field — spelling out the letters USA — and so proudly hailed the broad stripes and bright stars on the flags they carried. In unison, accompanied by the school's orchestra, they all sang "The Star-Spangled Banner."

At the end, they started chanting "USA! USA! USA!"

"It was cool," said seventh-grader Liam Quadrozzi after the brief ceremony. He joined in with the rest of the school in wearing red, white and blue clothing for the occasion.

"My parents said I should do it because of what happened," he said. "It was really bad."

Seventh-grader Jack Madison wore a tie-dyed American flag T-shirt, "just because you should, because it's the anniversary of Sept. 11."

Friday's celebration, which was recorded by Pittsfield Community Television (PCTV) for future broadcast, and concluded with the passing out of giant freeze pops, was a far less somber scene than occurred 14 years ago, before any of these middle schoolers were born.

When Herberg Principal Gina Coleman got an email from the American Public Education Foundation about hosting a "National Anthem Sing-a-Long" through the foundation's "9/12 Generation Project," she saw the opportunity for a unique teaching moment.

She enlisted veteran eighth-grade English teacher Dawn Quinlan to help rally the troops at the school, so to speak. Quinlan sent out an email to her colleagues on Sunday night, and by Monday morning, several ideas had been put into motion.

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Quinlan said chamber orchestra director Alla Zernitskaya quickly got students to rehearse the song.

The school's social studies teachers collaborated on a curriculum to teach kids not only about the Sept. 11 attacks, but also about the language and history of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

Students watched videos of the late singer Whitney Houston's epic rendition of the national anthem for Super Bowl XXV, which took place in 1991 during the Gulf War. They also watched videos showing the basics of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, as the two airplanes crashed into the twin towers.

Sixth-grade social studies teacher Nancy Cachat said teachers talked to the students before screening the footage and explained that it may evoke strong feelings, and that it was OK to feel that way and to ask questions about it.

"It was kind of scary to see something so big go down like that," said seventh-grader Paulina Currier describing the collapse of the buildings.

"Some of [the videos] were sad to see," her classmate Elizabeth Hammond said.

School nurse Katie Wiater said she hopes that everyone in the school could appreciate coming together for a cause. Quinlan agreed.

"I'm hoping they see today as a sense of unity and pride," said Quinlan.

"And community and belonging," said Wiater."

"And patriotism," Quinlan said.

Contact reporter Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239.


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