MONTREAL, SEPTEMBER 12, 2002- The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) and its network of primary and secondary schools commemorated the tragic events that occurred on September 11, 2001 with a number of different activities.
Some of them included:At Marymount Academy in N.D.G. (5100 Côte Saint-Luc Road), an emotional ceremony began with the school choir providing their rendition of the song Amazing Grace. There were readings of the Qur’an, Christian Scripture and Hebrew Scripture by Muslim, Christian and Jewish students respectively, a candle lighting ceremony led by four blind students and a choir finale set to Michael Jackson’s song Heal the World, at which time the room was lit only by candles. "Marymount Academy is a living example of a multicultural, multiracial environment, where all work harmoniously together," says Vice-Principal Felix Gelbart. "I think we could be the prime example, the poster picture, of the Board's multicultural and multiracial model. It really works here, and nobody is stigmatized at all."
At Rosemount High School (3737 Beaubien Street East), an open assembly for the entire school body took place. There were contributions from the students, Principal Dan Sipos and Spiritual and Community Animator Achlai Ernest. The Assembly served as a source of hope and encouragement in which reflection was promoted. Wrapped in musical expression (instrumental, band, song), the spiritual and community implications (that of looking inward to hope and outward to live out hope) were highlighted as well. A Memory of Hope Display was arranged in the foyer.
At Lester B. Pearson High School in Montreal North a service of remembrance, reflection, prayer and song was conducted over the P.A. System. The focus was not on the evil and destructive forces that were at work on 9/11 last year. "On 9-11 we saw the worst of what humanity can do but we also saw the best," said Community and Spiritual Animator Carol Lavoie. "The focus was on the heroic acts of ordinary people especially the passengers aboard Flight 93. Many, many ordinary people did many very extraordinary things on that day. Our prayers for the victims and their families was followed by a minute of silence. Students were reminded that every day they have the opportunity to be heroes in their own right." A memorial Ttable was set up in a large open area known as the Plaza where student projects were displayed. "Projects were absolutely amazing given the short period of time they had," said Ms. Lavoie.
At Michelangelo Elementary School in RDP a room was set aside and turned into a sacred space. There was a memorial table and during the course of the day all classes visited this room and placed their prayers on a peace tree. Principal Mr. John Ryan delivered the service over the P.A. system, which focused on peace and hope. Part of the program included the reading of a letter from Mary Help of Christians School, located near Ground Zero. Michelangelo sent a beautiful quilt as well as library books to them last year as a sign of their love and concern for the children of this New York school. Students wore either a red, blue or white ribbon for the day.
At Westmount High School teachers read an inspirational message distributed by Principal Claude Dansereau. There was also a moment of silence.
Paramedic Danny Garvin of Urgences Santé was at Parkdale and Gardenview elementary schools in Saint-Laurent. Students took part in tree planting ceremonies. Community and Spiritual Animator Father Mike Shaw says that paramedics, like firefighters and police officers, were greatly affected by the events of September 11 as well.
At John F. Kennedy High School in St. Michel, students constructed their own Towers of Hope on the main lobby of their building. They held a brief ceremony at which time scenes from the September 11 attacks were replayed on television screens. "The kids basically created their own ground zero," says Community and Spiritual Animator Daniel Soup. "The Towers of Hope will be whatever they consider to be an appropriate tribute to those who perished at Ground Zero."
At Dante Elementary School in St. Leonard three students read prayers of peace over the intercom at 11 a.m. The children also prepared artwork. A third grade class created a bulletin board dedicated to Sept 11.
At Vincent Massey Collegiate in Rosemount (5925 27th Avenue) there was a moment of silence at 9:45 a.m. Students were asked to give expression to the ways in which they feel their life can make a difference and do so in the form of a poem, drawing a picture or just writing a few sentences. Students placed their creations in a golden peace box as a symbol to make this world a better place. "We asked teachers to encourage students to express their feelings and their opinions related to this event," says Spiritual and Community Animator Nancy Pasquini. "They do have control over their own lives. They can contribute to bringing peace in their world by asking God to help them to become kind and loving individuals. The idea was to get them to come to the realization that what they do and who they are can make a difference."
At Merton Elementary School in Côte Saint-Luc an exchange of artwork expressing the message "I am happy when..." took place between Grade 1 and 2 classes with the Muslim School of Montreal. Students were introduced to the topic of "World Peace" using photos and having a class discussion on "getting to know people who are different than you." Plans call for this theme to culminate with a multicultural evening in the spring.
At Willingdon Elementary School in N.D.G. a choir accompanied Spiritual and Community Animator Gladys Batten-Baldwin as she visited most of the classes and presented a talk with photos on first impressions, and building friendships with people all around the world. Students composed a peace mural and wrote messages of peace.
Options II High School displayed an art project they did last year related to the September 11 tragedy in the foyer of the Fine Arts Building at Concordia University on Rene Levesque Boulevard West. Entitled Remembering 9/11 it will now go to a Regional High School in Rouses Point, New York and from there to different schools in the Montreal area and the province of Quebec. Glenn Hilke of Open City Productions has coordinated the project.
Laurier Macdonald High School in St. Leonard held a ceremony on Monday, September 9, which was designated as a Day for Peace. At this time students raised the United Nations flag. They then proceeded to the school auditorium and students from different religious background spoke.
Many other schools organized programs on a much smaller scale. Meanwhile, at the EMSB’s central head office, a special memorial service was held for staff and coordinated by Spiritual Religious and Moral Education Consultant Irene Miller. "With the collapse of the twin towers, 1,368 feet into the skies of New York, suddenly the monument of human achievement became a site of human devastation and the burial ground of human beings of all ages," said Ms. Miller.
All school principals were sent copies of a document entitled One Year Later: Remembering September 11, 2001. It was produced by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), a U.S. based organization, and contains many suggestions for in-school personnel and students.
"Over the past year, schools have played an important role in helping students, staff, and families cope with their reactions to September 11," the NASP document emphasizes. "The first anniversary of the attacks, which will coincide with the return to school, is likely to be a significant event throughout the country. Once again, teachers and other school staff will be expected to help students cope during a potentially difficult period while, at the same time, transitioning into a new school year.
"The ‘anniversary effect’ can cause intense feelings and reactions in children and adults, particularly those who suffered a personal loss from or exposure to the tragedy. How schools choose to mark the events can shape the impact of the experience."
On the subject of memorials, the NASP notes that these type of programs allow people to come together to express their feelings, increase a sense of security, and reduce a sense of isolation and vulnerability. However, the NASP emphasizes that they will not be needed in all schools. "Providing a memorial activity for students who do not need it may increase their threat perceptions," it states. "Conversely, not providing such activities denies students who need them an effective venue for dealing with their anniversary reactions."
Michael J. Cohen
Communications and Marketing Specialist
English Montreal School Board
Tel: (514) 483-7200 ext. 7243
Fax: (514) 483-7213