Schools open hearts to victims

Tuesday, September 25, 2001

ST. LOUIS -- From fund-raising car washes to gifts of cards and letters to schoolyard memorials, schools around Missouri are finding ways to memorialize and aid victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Students have responded with contributions of money and gifts. They've also constructed makeshift memorials to help ease the hurt in their own communities as well as in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"This is my country," said Dana Hawthorne, 17, a senior who has spent recent lunch periods at Ritenour High School in suburban St. Louis collecting money to send through the American Red Cross to support rescue workers in New York City. "This affects my generation. We haven't had anything this bad happen to us the whole time we have been alive, until now."

Letters to New York

The efforts are having an impact. Artwork and letters from more than 100 Kansas City area schoolchildren were sent to New York. Now, they're taped to about a half-dozen shop windows along 59th Street between Madison and Park avenues.

Students in first through fifth grades at the Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Overland Park, Kan., wrote letters to New York the day after the attack.

"Dear New York," one letter reads. "We are so sorry to hear what happened to you and your family's. I hope the Police and firemen are okay. I will pray for you. I love you. Jenny."

"Its intention was to be cathartic for the kids," said Laura Hewitt, the academy's lower school principal. "It seemed to help them, to pour out their hearts."

Around the St. Louis area, memorials and efforts to aid the victims abound.

At Nipher Middle School in Kirkwood, students have donated more than 700 Beanie Babies to send to children affected by the violence in New York. They also have written messages on a memorial wall covered with a 10-foot-by-17-foot paper flag outside the principal's office. The wall will be sent to New York in a few weeks.

Darryl Clark, 12, wrote "God Bless America" and drew a flag. "I hope this makes people feel better," he said.

At Parkway Central High School, Styrofoam cups spelled out "United we stand, we will go on."

Students at three high schools in the Rockwood School District in west St. Louis County collected more than $10,000 at football games. Around St. Charles County this past weekend, car washes could be seen at dozens of intersections, most of them run by cheerleaders or school groups taking donations for victims.

Small-town help

Small towns around the state are showing their support, too.

In Van Buren, a small Southeast Missouri town near Poplar Bluff, students helped create a "human flag" over the weekend. The flag was constructed from rolls and rolls of bulletin board paper in red, white and blue. Students cut out large white stars to represent the states.

In Hannibal, high school principal Darin Powell challenged students, giving them 36 hours to raise $5,000 for the Red Cross relief efforts. He promised to shave his head if they did.

Students raised $7,800. Powell, assistant principal Tracy Kemp and Tim Dann, the schools police liaison officer, had their heads shaved Friday afternoon on the 50-yard line of Porter Stadium in front of the student body.

At Eugene Field Elementary School in the mid-Missouri town Mexico, students collected coins last week to be sent to New York.

"The students are bringing in a lot of money," said Ashley Peery, vice president of the Student Council. "Some kids are bringing in entire bags of coins."

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