Students at a Bay Ridge Catholic school are far too young to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attack that took place 17 years ago, long before they were born.
But they are aware of the significance of that tragic day in U.S. history, according to their principal, who led the youngsters in a commemoration of the event Tuesday morning, Sept. 11.
“Sept. 11 is part of our curriculum. Our teachers talk to the children in each of our classes about what happened,” Rosemarie McGoldrick, principal of Holy Angels Catholic Academy, told this newspaper as she stood in the school’s courtyard and watched approvingly as youngsters tied red, white and blue ribbons to a fence.
Next to the fence where the children were carefully affixing their ribbons stood a permanent memorial to Sept. 11, a small section of a steel beam from the Twin Towers.
The beam was brought to the courtyard several years ago by the Rev. James Devlin, who was the pastor of Our Lady of Angels Catholic Church at the time. Holy Angels Catholic Academy has close ties to the church, which is located next door to the school.
Holy Angels Academy is located at 337 74th St.
The presence of the steel beam serves as a daily reminder to the students and to Our Lady of Angels parishioners of the sacrifices made on Sept. 11, 2001.
Seventeen parishioners of Our Lady of Angels were killed in the World Trade Center that day. A plaque listing the names of the local victims is attached to the fence behind the steel beam.
The roster includes five New York City firefighters: Eric Allen, Salvatore Calabro, David DeRubbio, William Lake and James Riches, as well as a police officer, Moira Smith.
The list also contains civilians who either worked in the World Trade Center or were there that day by chance. Barbara Habib, a senior vice president at Marsh & McLennan, worked in her company’s midtown Manhattan office but was in the firm’s office in the North Tower for a conference when the building was struck by a hijacked jetliner.
On Tuesday, Holy Angels Academy had a wreath placed in front of the steel beam.
Russell Berry, the school’s social studies teacher, planned the ribbon-tying tribute and directed the children, who went up to the fence once class at a time.
The memorial service started with the Rev. Jason Espinal, the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Angels Church, leading the students and teachers in prayer.
“We pray for the families of the victims. We pray for our nation,” he said.
State Sen. Marty Golden, who was an altar boy at Our Lady of Angels Church when he was growing up in Bay Ridge, attended the ceremony and talked to the students about the importance of remembering Sept. 11 as the years go by and the date recedes into the distant past.
At some point in the next few decades, Golden said, the students standing in the school courtyard will be the civic, business and political leaders, and will be bearing the responsibility of maintaining the country’s focus on Sept. 11.
“It’s important that we never, ever forget. You are the future who will be leading this great nation. Never let these incidents happen again in our future,” Golden told the children.
The ceremony ended with Espinal leading everyone in the singing of “God Bless America.”