Focus is on unity at Platt 9/11 remembrance

MILFORD >> Most of the 900-plus students at Platt Technical High School aren’t old enough to remember the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but they got a short history lesson Friday in the front lawn of the school to commemorate its 15th anniversary.

The speakers’ focus was on the importance of Americans being unified.

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg, D-Milford, told students that like most who remember that day when 3,000 Americans died after four planes were hijacked by 19 terrorists, she remembers exactly where she was when she heard the news.

Slossberg, president of Mathewson School PTA at the time, said she was at the school with her daughter, Rebecca, who was 3 and in a stroller. Rebecca is now a college student.

After someone told her of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center, Slossberg went home, was glued to the television and checked on friends who worked across the street from the WTC.

“For the first time in my life, I felt afraid — afraid of what would happen next,” Slossberg told students and staff.

She told students although many of them hadn’t been born yet, and most weren’t old enough to remember, it’s an important day for them to know about.

“What happened that day and after that day matters to who we are as Americans.”

Slossberg told students they need to know that “3,000 innocent Americans were killed,” and “we want you to know about the extraordinary acts of bravery” and selflessness in the aftermath.

After the attacks, people were displaying the American flag and saying “Hello” to strangers, because really, Americans are not strangers, but share a deep kinship, Slossberg said.

“We want you to know that in our darkest hours, Americans come together. I want you to know America and Americans are strong. We rise up and we help each other,” in the knowledge that this is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

On that day in 2001, terrorists hijacked four airplanes in midflight and flew them into two skyscrapers at the WTC and at the Pentagon in Virginia; the fourth crashed near Shanksville, Penn., not reaching its target after passengers fought their attackers. Hundreds of the dead were first-responders, some of them walking into the burning, crumbling Twin Towers to rescue victims.

Platt Principal Scott Zito, telling students this generation “now carries the torch of liberty” and needs to “protect the flame,” went all the way back in history to the attack on Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941, coined by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as “the day that will live in infamy.”

Zito told students there were 2,403 Americans killed in that surprise attack by the Japanese forces and the event defined a generation of Americans and summoned the collective resolve to the “altar of freedom.”

He said the events of 9/11 defined this generation’s collective resolve to the altar. He remembered the victims, firefighters, police officers and many other heroes of that day and the period after the attacks.

Then, in a firm voice, Zito told the more than 900 students to “please” recite the Pledge of Allegiance with him.

The American flag was raised by uniformed Milford police and a military officer.

State Rep. Pam Staneski, R-119, first addressed those who are old enough to remember that day, telling them, “You knew exactly where you were and how you felt,” when you heard the news.

“You are aware that day changed our history,” she said.

And to those too young to remember, Staneski said, “We know that day brought out the best in everyone,” and told the teens we will continue to mourn the losses, celebrate the heroism, think about all the first responders who gave or risked their lives.

“We are a country of one,” she said.