Williams/Ledger Elementary holds annual Freedom Walk
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Students at Williams/Ledger Elementary marched around the rear parking lot holding patriotic signs and signs expressing gratitude and appreciation for first responders and the military Friday afternoon as part of the school’s annual Freedom Walk.
The Freedom Walk has been held annually since 2002, as a way to remember those lost to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror and to recognize the firefighters, law enforcement and servicemembers who dedicate their lives to preserving the safety and freedom of this nation.
Terry Jernigan, who is a P.E. teacher at the school, organized this year’s walk. Even during the lockdown/restrictions of last year, the school still held the Freedom Walk, she added.
This year, although parents couldn’t march with their children, they lined the sidewalks around the parking lot and cheered the students on.
“We think it’s important that the children remember this history in our country,” Jernigan said.
Jernigan said she remembers that she was teaching a PE class in the gymnasium on Sept. 11, 2001, at what was then Lovett Ledger Intermediate School. She said teachers were told to immediately check their emails where they were told the news of what had happened. Jernigan said she had to get back to teaching the kids and protect them, but she will never forget that day.
“Patriotism is very important, and I’m so afraid we’re losing a lot of that patriotism,” Jernigan said. “Mr. Warren, our music teacher, is a veteran, so he instills a lot of that, and I just think it’s important that the kids know about it. I mean, it’s important to be an American, and to know what we have that other people don’t have and that we need to protect that, so I think this is amazing that I can be a part of this.”
Noah Spitzer, 10, is in fifth grade and was glad to be part of the Freedom Walk and show his support for military servicemembers, veterans and first responders.
“It just makes me feel good helping and supporting other people,” Spitzer said.
Amani Whitehead, 8, is in the third grade and got the chance to help hold the American flag during the walk around the parking lot. She said she thought it was amazing to be able to hold the flag and participate in the walk as a way to show support for the people who lost their lives and the people who survived and still live.
Each year, the students sing a different song following the walk. This year’s selection tied into the 20th anniversary and came after Jernigan read aloud different accounts from various teachers and staff members about where they remember being during the attacks.
Music teacher Paul Warren was teaching a fifth-grade science class at what was known as C.R. Clements Intermediate School. Two young men delivered papers to the office and when they came back to class, they mentioned an attack. Warren said then all staff members received a notice to check their emails with the news.
Warren is served in the Army from 1988 to 1993, so teaching the significance of remembering 9/11 and recognizing the men and women who died and those who served their country after is something very important to him.
“There aren’t a whole lot of things that get to me, but patriotism does,” Warren said.
Warren spent weeks teaching Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” on guitar to his students to get them ready for their performance at Friday’s walk.
“There’s certain things we don’t need to forget, and we make sure our kids know-they know why,” Warren said.