COLLINSVILLE: Taps, played by senior Tory Greenwood, echoed through the solemn scene as community members, civic leaders, and students gathered outside of Collinsville High School for a special memorial service remembering the 15th anniversary of the lives lost in the September 11th attacks.

Students placed 2,996 flags outlining the letters ‘U.S.A.’ Sunday afternoon before a memorial service. The 9-11 memorial ceremony featured several speakers such as students, administration, and civic leaders and the singing of ‘God Bless America.’  The service also included a remembrance of Captain John Tipton who was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Junior multicultural club president Blerta Beluli, of Maryville, said the tribute is beneficial not only in the sense of memorializing the lives that were lost, but also helping bring the community closer together going forward.

“We are doing this not only to honor those that lost their lives but also to inform the public the importance of tolerance, as it leads to a better understanding of one another. Therefore, improving our community as a whole,” she said.

Many of the individuals in attendance reflected on where they were on that particular day several years ago. Multicultural club sponsor Barbara Lindauer said looking back, the world isn’t the same as it used to be.

“15 years have passed since the attacks of 9-11. To myself and others of my generation, it seems like just yesterday. I know for the students this day is hardened into history. I regret the world you’ve inherited may seem intolerant or unsafe at times. It’s not the same world I grew up in,” Lindauer said.

Collinsville mayor John Miller also looks back on the day while serving as a City of Collinsville firefighter.

“I remember that day visibly, seeing 343 brothers and sisters going into the burning buildings but never coming out,” Miller said. “That day I was off duty, I was glued to the television set watching everything going on and just in shock like the rest of the country. The [attacks] just brought a new awareness to first responders and that awareness has not worn off after 15 years.”

Miller reminisces about his time speaking at Collinsville High School shortly after the attacks.

“Probably the most heartening and uplifting experience I’ve had shortly after that was when the students of this high school invited me to come and speak to the student body,” Miller said. “At that time they presented me with a check for approximately five thousand dollars to be forwarded to the New York Firefighters Association who suffered those tragic losses that day.”

According to Collinsville High School principal David Snider, the day of the attacks was simply “surreal.”

“That day was surreal. I encourage you when you go home to ask your guardians about that day and get that personal story from them. I guarantee you they will remember where they were and what was going on. I actually, when I watched the news, I cried when I watched that. It was a terrible time for our country,” Snider said.

The memorial service and the placing of the flags rang a chord with Beluli.

“I think the fact that we came together was an amazing thing. It struck me when we placed all the flags, how many lives were lost that day. It’s really sad, but the fact that our community came together like this shows that we, as people, can do a lot more than just mope around. We can raise our voices about things like this, and I feel like that makes a difference,” Beluli said.

During the ceremony, fallen Captain John Miller, who was killed in action, was remembered with the placement of a special flag in the display.

“I just want to say thank you for remembering John. I really really appreciate it,” wife Susie Tipton said.

The memorial ceremony was the brainchild of social studies teacher Barbara Lindauer and counselor Karen Olsen.

According to the Robert R. McCormick foundation website, the Illinois Democracy School initiative was launched to recognize and support high schools that are dedicated to expanding and improving civic learning experiences across the curriculum.

‘The Democracy School recognition process allows schools to assess the extent to which they embody these elements, as well as identify opportunities for improvement,’ the website said.

“We are in the process of becoming an Illinois Democracy School, and as part of it we are supposed to do more civic minded activities to bring state representatives and government officials in to have more of a connection with the students,” Lindauer said.

This is only the first of many civic events being held at Collinsville High School this year.
“This was our first event, the memorial. We are also holding a mock election, and we are building a veterans memorial at the school,” Lindauer said.