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Mount Vernon Exploratory School celebrates first responders
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Jared Expinoza is helped out of a Hall County ambulance by Michael Angel at Mount Vernon Exploratory School on Thursday, September 10, 2015. Students were given the opportunity to walk through the ambulance during the day of service event. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Emergency sirens wail, and students at Mount Vernon Exploratory School squeal with delight.

“This is awesome,” one student says, approaching an ambulance.

The Hall County school invited first responders, including Hall County Sheriff’s Office deputies and firefighters with Hall County Fire Services, for a morning of appreciation with the school’s five second-grade classes.

“Whenever I do some kind of service project or any community service, I always want to do something like this,” said Elizabeth Barrett, Brenau University student teacher working at Mount Vernon. “I think it’s so important to do this sort of thing for the military or for our first responders.”

The event was closely timed with what the school calls “Patriots’ Day,” recognized on Sept. 11. Elementary-school children today were not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, so the day of remembrance takes on a new meaning.

“We did a lesson on it Wednesday, that was just really super kid-friendly,” Barrett said. “It’s just to get them to understand the event more than the details of it, so they know why it’s important to do something like this and why we are so grateful for our first responders.”

The first responders brought deputy vehicles, a ladder truck and an ambulance for children to see and explore.

“I think it’s very special that they teach children about officers and the fire department,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Vicky Burrell.

The students also made picture books for the first responders to share with their co-workers. The books included hand-written messages and colored pictures that read, “Not all heroes wear capes.”

Mount Vernon is not the only school in the area marking the Sept. 11 day of remembrance. In Gainesville City Schools, Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School will have a moment of silence and Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy will have kid-friendly announcements regarding the day.

In Hall County, Chestnut Mountain Creative School of Inquiry will have first-graders and kindergartners working together on patriotic ribbons. Principal Wade Pearce said they hope to have as many as 600 ribbons placed in the windows of the school to commemorate 9/11.

Teachers at North Hall High School will commemorate the day in their own ways in the classroom. Nancy Story will give a lesson in 9/11 poetry to her literature classes. Marlena Nix, sociology teacher, will remind students about ways they can continue to honor and remember those lost to the attacks.

Nix said her 2011 sociology class sold lollipops and cookies to raise $207 for the building of the Flight 93 National Memorial. To this day, the school is noted in the founders’ registry for the memorial.

Ansley Patrum, a special education teacher, said she will be encouraging her students to journal their thoughts and emotions about the day and will teach “the importance of the World Trade Centers, the heroism of the New York firemen and policemen, along with coming together as a nation in the face of a personal attack.”

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