ADAMS TWP — The Mars-Pine-Richland JROTC planted 2,977, 6-inch flags in front of the Mars Area High School on Sept. 10, representing the number of people killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
It was part of the annual Mars Area School District 9/11: Never Forget Project.
The group took over the responsibility from Mars Area School Board President Dayle Ferguson and her family.
The Fergusons donated the flags and other materials for this year's memorial.
The students set the flags after school, and Mars-Pine-Richland JROTC Chief Mike Gasparetto said the group was excited to be part of the memorial.
“We have a very energetic group of first-year cadets,” Gasparetto said.
Not all of the 111 JROTC students were available for the flag installation. But a number from both Mars Area and Pine-Richland spent their afternoon measuring, plotting and lining rows with flags.
The 9/11 attacks are a textbook lesson for most of the students. More than half of them were born after the attacks.
Pine-Richland senior and JROTC Cadet Group Commander Arden Webster was born during them.
“My mother was in labor when the planes (crashed),” Webster said. “My stem cells were frozen, and they had to go to a blood bank to get them.”
Webster said transportation restrictions that day forced her doctor to pick up the stem cells.
The event has had an impact on Webster's life. She remembers noticing flags and memorials and yellow ribbons being displayed on her birthday. Hearing about them in school gave Webster a unique perspective of the day.
“I think I was more in tune (with) it because it was on my birthday,” Webster said.
Webster believes participating in things such as the Never Forget Project are an important part of understanding the past.
Pine-Richland junior and JROTC Vice Group Commander Madison Howard said the process of installing the memorial embodies something 9/11 taught Americans: unity.
“It's really important,” Howard said. “I like how many we have here (helping).”
Howard said Americans may be divided and struggle to reconcile differences, but she believes things like working together to remember a national tragedy can help people overcome the issues they have with each other.
“We can still be unified,” Howard said. “We are still all Americans.”
Webster has similar hopes for the memorial.
“I hope it helps people, especially kids in the high school,” Webster said. “There's still threats out there.”
The display was up all day on Sept. 11. Students removed the flags Thursday after school.
Gasparetto and JROTC co-adviser Major Michael Morrison hope being part of the memorial helps students understand 9/11, even if just a little more than before.
“Unless it's brought to their attention in a constructive way ... the memory fades away,” Gasparetto said.