Kennedy Remembers: On Patriot Day, South Plainfield Elementary School Holds 9/11 Ceremony

South Plainfield's Kennedy Elementary School held a Patriot Day ceremony the morning of Sept. 11. Credits: Victoria Caruso
Kennedy fourth graders Courtney Gregory and Adrian Sanchez present a wreath in honor of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.
Kennedy music teacher Barbara Habeeb performs 'God Bless the U.S.A.'
Kennedy students sing 'God Bless the U.S.A.'
Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk, retired U.S. Navy Commander Keith Both, and members of Cub Scout Pack #324 at the school's September 11 ceremony

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Patriot Day – observed annually on Sept. 11 in memory of those who lost their lives in the tragic terrorist attacks against the United Stated back in 2001 – was the observed Monday at South Plainfield’s John F. Kennedy Elementary School. The entire student body, teachers, and staff, gather outside for the morning ceremony honoring the nearly 3,000 men and woman who lost their lives 16 years ago.

“None of the students at Kennedy School were born when the events of 9/11 occurred 16 years ago and for the students to understand and respect this day in history, I feel that schools have the responsibility to at least speak about it, if not participate in a remembrance ceremony,” Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk told TAPinto South Plainfield.

Organized by Hajduk with assistance from parent and retired U.S. Navy Commander Keith Both, Kennedy’s September 11th remembrance ceremony focused not only on the victims, but also on the heroes.

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“I want you to not only remember the victims but I also want you to remember the numerous acts of heroism exhibited by so many people on that day,” Hajduk, who back in 2001 was a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School, told the students. “There were countless heroes who were not just emergency works like police officers, firefighters, [and] EMTs. There were businessmen, businesswomen, teachers who rushed to save strangers as if they were best friends.”

During the program, Both, who serves as a leader of South Plainfield Cub Scout Pack #324, discussed the history of the American flag and explained to the students what the colors, stars, and stripes signify. Kennedy Scouts then lowered and removed the school’s old flag, replacing it with a new one that was flown at half-staff in remembrance of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

Kennedy’s Patriot Day ceremony also featured a wreath presentation by Kennedy fourth graders Courtney Gregory and Adrian Sanchez and concluded with a moving performance of God Bless the U.S.A. led by music teacher Barbara Habeeb.

In the United States, Patriot Day is a National Day of Service and Remembrance observed annually on September 11 in memory of the men and woman who lost their lives in the 2001 terrorist attacks. On that day, two hijacked airplanes crashed into the Twin Towers in New York City and a third crashed into the Pentagon. A fourth aircraft, possibly headed for the White House, also went down in Pennsylvania field when passengers overtook the hijackers to prevent the attack. A total of 2,996 men and woman lost their lives that tragic day, including many who perished trying to save others.

In December 2001, President George W. Bush signed into law a discretionary day of remembrance marking Sept. 11 as Patriot Day. The American flag should be flown at half-staff at home and at all U.S. government buildings and moments of silence occur throughout the day, beginning at 8:46 a.m. EST - the time of the first plane crashed in the World Trade Center’s North Tower.

“The date in history is so important,” said Hajduk, who prior to joining Kennedy in 2016 served as principal of South Plainfield Middle School, credits history teacher Joe Blondo for organizing important, inspirational and educational patriotic assemblies, including an annual 9/11 Remembrance ceremony, each year.

“Joe Blondo is not only an excellent teacher, but an inspiration for all assemblies pertaining to 9/11 and service to our country. He was so instrumental when I was at the middle school in creating assemblies that taught the students and staff so much about patriotism that I think our students here at Kennedy School can benefit from this message also,” Hajduk said, adding, “It is my goal to incorporate programs that remember the victims, recognize the heroes, and teach our elementary students about patriotism and being a kind person.”   

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