As part of its annual Sept. 11 remembrance, Exchange Club of the San Ramon Valley hosted an essay contest for students throughout the San Ramon Valley Unified School District. This year's essay topic was "Why Do We Have a Memorial Program on September 11th?" and students in elementary, middle and high schools were invited to participate.
"We thought the topic at first was too simplistic, but so many have asked (why we have a program) already," said Danville Councilmember and Exchange Club chair Karen Stepper. "You can't believe the passion in these essays."
Eighty-eight essays were submitted to an Exchange Club committee for review. Three winners were chosen from each school level, with prizes from $50 to $500, along with several second and third place winners.
Bollinger Canyon Elementary fourth grader Sophia Kraskowsky took first place in the 1st through 4th grade category along with a $150 prize. Hidden Hills third grader Kyle Lew placed second with a $100 prize and Andrew Yee, a fourth grader at Hidden Hills, took third and a $50 prize.
Kyungbin Oh's essay took first place in the 5th to 8th grade competition, winning the Iron Horse sixth grader $300. St. Isidore seventh grader Avery Chapman placed second and Windemere Ranch eighth grader Danya Gao took third.
In the high school competition, Monte Vista senior Michaela Gines won $500 and the first place prize. Siblings Alex and Sophia Colello, freshmen at De La Salle and Carondelet, placed second and third.
Winning essays are printed below:
Elementary level, first place
Why do we have a memorial service on 9/11? Our country needs to keep our freedom, and not let anybody take it away from us. The United States of America is prepared. Helpful people in the military fight in war so we can keep our freedom. U.S.A did not and will not give up our freedom.
So why do we have a memorial service on 9/11? That service is for all the innocent people who died. This is for the police, fireman, and just helpful people who were heroes. Two thousand sixteen people died from the attack. Three hundred forty three firefighters and sixty police were brave enough to go into the Twin Towers during 9/11. All the other people who passed away were business people working in the Twin Towers. Another reason for having a memorial service is that we don't want to forget what all those brave people did for us, and how much it helped us. If our country didn't have those brave people, millions and millions of more people would've passed away. If we didn't have those brave people, everybody close to the towers and Pentagon would have been hurt. Fireman and police directed others out of stores near by. We're very grateful for our heroes. America will never forget what our heroes did for us.
Why do heroes have a part in 9/11? The heroes could have been firemen, police, or business workers. What they did was help others who were trapped on the higher floors get down to safety. Lots of people during 9/11 didn't know what was happening, but they realized some other people needed help fleeing the towers. Most of them died during the disaster. The attack on 9/11 took many lives, but that doesn't stop America.
Intermediate level, first place
We have a memorial program on September 11 to remember those who lost their lives in a terrorist attack, and to show the world how even though that horrible crisis occurred, we helped each other and moved on. September 11 may be just a single day, but its meaning is vast.
As the planes slammed into the Twin Towers and the towers came crashing down, almost 3,000 people were trapped inside. Innocent citizens, firefighters, and policemen were killed. Furthermore, people living near the towers got terribly ill from the toxin in the air. A third plane also crashed into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defenses. 70 civilians and 55 military personnel were killed. In another plane, the passengers tried to overcome the hijackers, resulting the plane to crash in Pennsylvania instead of Washington D.C. In that one day, many loved ones lost their lives.
On that tragic day, many turned to strangers and offered them a hand. They didn't know who they were helping, but with a kind and open heart, they gave each other words of comfort. Now, America as a nation has moved on. We didn't sit there gloomily staring at the mess and wishing it away. We stood up and moved on in life. New buildings now stand where the World Trade Center was, better and stronger than before. And, at ground zero, water flows continuously in a memorial that helps us reflect on our loss.
We have a memorial every September 11 to help us remember that freedom has an enormous price, and to help families and children who lost loved ones. So, memorialize ones you've lost, but cherish those you still have. And remember: move onward, but never forget.
High school level, first place
I was five.
I didn't go to school that morning. My two sisters and I sat in the living room quietly. In the kitchen, my mom was on the phone asking my dad to come home from work.
I kept thinking about kindergarten, and how it had been my day for show-and-tell. It made me sad to think my class would miss out on the glory of my new ballet shoes.
The TV was on, but I wasn't watching. Would Mrs. Beery let me do show-and-tell tomorrow instead?
That day blurred in with the rest of kindergarten. I never learned the true implications of what had happened until I was much older.
It is astonishing to believe that many of the children that live on my street have not even lived through that day. And I, at five, did not have much to say about it.
We watch countless videos and flip through masses of photos of the ashes in the sky and the broken on the streets. But because it's impossible to go back in time and live that day as adults, we children struggle to understand what it was like.
Then we hear the words in a memorial. Words of survivors. And as we hear further, we're not just hearing anymore, but listening.
Children and young adults, with our ears made to listen and absorb the wisdom of those older than us. Suddenly, the survivor's world has become our own. The survivor has decades on us, yet it seems as if the sole commonality of being American suffices as the tie. We have a memorial because it is the resulting shared experience that perpetuates our nation's unity across the expanse of generations.
I missed show-and-tell that day. In exchange, I was shown the unwavering togetherness of a nation.