Heroes memorialized in I.S. 259’s September 11th mural

There was not a dry eye in the house at McKinley Junior High School’s September 11th Memorial dedication on the morning of Wednesday, May 16.

Students at the Fort Hamilton Parkway school, who were toddlers when the attacks took place, have been working on an elaborate mural on the third floor since the fall. The paintings portray the events of that tragic day in a moving way, including a rendition of three first responders carrying FDNY Chaplain Mychal Judge, who was the first cited casualty of the day, from the tower in a way that is reminiscent of the Pietá. Students also stenciled the names of the 3,000 lives lost that day on the wall.

Supervised and spearheaded by literature teacher Thomas Buxton and art teacher Roma Karas, students worked on the mural after school and on Saturday mornings. They received helped from some alumna, who came to help paint. Lee Ielpi of the Tribute World Trade Center Visitor Center also helped with the planning.

Prior to the viewing, the city’s top brass, including Chief Thomas Chan, of Patrol Borough Brooklyn South, and Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, attended a ceremony in I.S. 259’s courtyard, featuring performances by Daniel Rodriguez, The McKinley Marching Band and the FDNY and NYPD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums. Local artists Michelle Cleary and FDNY lieutenant Dave Walsh performed am emotional song, “Not Forgotten,” about a fallen hero.

Cassano presented a shadowbox containing steel from the World Trade Center site to the school. “It represents the resiliency of the city. Plenty was twisted, but none were broken,” he said. “On behalf of the 16,000 members of the FDNY, we thank the students, parents and teachers that allow us to get through another day.”

Chan commented, “It’s the responsibility of everyone who survived that day to educate and memorialize that terrible day. The beautiful and long-lasting mural represents bravery, suffering and loss of life that day.”

Eighth graders Gabriella Hernandez and Noura Faras have been working as “tour guides” since the mural finished. Hernandez talked about her experience showing the mural to survivors. “I feel what they feel, we feel connected,” she said. “We also understand more as we talk about it. We learn more.”

Faras said she didn’t know anything about the attacks before she started working on the project. “I thought a couple of hundred people died, not thousands,” she said. “But we want to make sure that the people who died on September 11 are not forgotten.”

Hernandez said she hopes the mural will be a living legacy. “It will help students that come through this year and the year after,” she said.

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