Three members of the Oregon Army National Guard came to Colonel Wright Elementary School Monday morning to remember the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks by raising an American flag as the school’s 330 students watched. Left to right around the flagpole are Staff Sgt. Ryan Young, Sgt. 1st Class Roger Montavon, and Spc. Ramon Nino.
Photo by Jesse Burkhardt.
Sixteen years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, a coordinated series of attacks by terrorists shocked the nation and left nearly 3,000 people dead.
On Monday, the anniversary of that tragic day, students at Colonel Wright Elementary School in The Dalles gathered around the flagpole in the school’s courtyard to observe a ceremonial raising of the American flag as a way to reflect on that dark day and honor the victims of the attacks.
At 8 a.m., approximately 330 youngsters, from kindergarteners to fifth-graders, watched quietly as three members of the Oregon National Guard’s Fort Dalles Readiness Center raised the banner. The flag — which has flown over the nation’s capital —was a special gift donated to the school by U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, who represents Oregon’s Second Congressional District in Congress.
Before the flag was raised, Colonel Wright Elementary School’s principal, Sharon Bonderud, spoke to the kids in the gymnasium about the importance of that September day and the symbolism of the nation’s flag.
“The flag kept us together and united us,” she told the gathered youngsters. “It brings us all together and makes us all united at our school. The flag will fly at half-staff in memory of the 3,000 people who lost their lives.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered flags at all public institutions throughout the state to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Sept. 11, which is now known as Patriot Day.
“The unfathomable events of Sept. 11, 2001, were tragic and shook our nation to its core,” read a statement from Gov. Brown. “However, the resilience of Americans and faith in our nation’s founding values gave way to a restored spirit of unity.”
The three Guardsmen who led the Monday morning ceremony all volunteered to take part.
“It’s a special opportunity to be able to share with the kids,” said Sgt. 1st Class Roger Montavon. “We were called in and asked if we would be interested in taking part, and we certainly would. I consider myself a patriot, and want these kids to learn these values.”
“It’s nice to be able to give back to the local community,” added Staff Sgt. Ryan Young.
Young said he was in The Dalles when the planes were flown into the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I was a junior in high school here when 9-11 happened,” Young said.
Spc. Ramon Nino was even younger when the attacks occurred.
“I was 8 and in grade school,” Nino said.
Kathy Ursprung, chair of the North Wasco County School District 21 Board, said young people can learn a lot from participating in solemn memorials for what took place on Sept. 11, 2001.
“I think it’s a good experience for children to learn respect for the flag and get to know some of the people who served our country,” she said.
Ursprung added that the flagpole at Colonel Wright Elementary School has a unique and important history of its own.
“It is in the same location as the original flagpole on the parade grounds of Fort Dalles,” she explained. “It stands very tall above the buildings. It is taller than the old buildings at the school and was tall when the fort was there, too, so that it could be seen throughout the community.”
Bonderud told the National Guardsmen she appreciated them coming to the school to mark the 16th anniversary of the attacks with a flag ceremony.
“Your presence makes a statement to the kids,” Bonderud said. “And hopefully this memory stays with them.”