CUYAHOGA FALLS: The five Cuyahoga Falls High School students standing in front of the school auditorium at a recent assembly knew very little about United Flight 93 just a few weeks ago
Now they are telling the story of 40 passengers and crew members who chose to die fighting rather than have terrorists use the plane to kill others in Washington, D.C.
The students, members of Beth Hulme's business management class and the Ohio chapter of Business Professionals of America, tell the 1,500 or so teens in the audience how Flight 93 came to have its final resting place in a field in rural Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001.
There is no restless wiggling, there is no texting and there are no bored sighs.
The room is quiet, except for the voices of the students, as each takes turn telling the story. Rosie Townsend and Liz Hoenigman, both juniors and timid speakers, find their confidence in the respectful attention of their peers.
When they finish, they ask their audience to donate at least 93 cents toward the Flight 93 National Memorial.
So far, the 30-member class has raised about $1,100, plus $100 selling HALO Foundation ''Flight 93, 40 Heroes'' T-shirts.
Some gave more than once.
''One kid gave me $15,'' said senior Brittany Currie. ''That's money he would have spent on the weekend.''
Junior Cassie Liska said raising funds was a school effort.
''It's not only our class that pulled together for this,'' she said. ''It really was the whole school. It meant something to the teachers, students and all of us.''
The Falls students, along with other BPA chapters in Summit County and across Ohio, are taking part in HALO Foundation's 93 cents for Flight 93, an educational and fundraising project based in Akron.
Using age-appropriate language and supplemental tools, students learn lessons of courage, sacrifice and standing up for what is right through the story of the passengers and crew of Flight 93, said HALO board President Sharon Deitrick.
Six members of Hulmes' class joined nearly 5,000 people at the Flight 93 National Memorial's Phase One dedication on Sept. 10.
Seated in the public area, the students didn't hear much of the speeches by former Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton or Vice President Joe Biden, and could barely see the stage.
But the teens did watch the faces of surviving family and friends of the ''40 Heroes'' of Flight 93, taking it in as a wife touched her husband's name on the memorial or a mother quietly cried as she was escorted by golf cart.
They practiced for their presentation by talking to national reporters who approached them to ask about the ''Flight 93 - 40 Heroes'' T-shirts they wore.
They felt the energy of the adults around them – many who were residents of Shanksville and other Pennsylvania communities, like Nancy Hamilton, 72.
Hamilton, of Pittsburgh, was sitting on a bench at a Somerset mall nearby, swapping family photos with her cousin, when they saw a passenger plane flying a little too low above the trees.
Hamilton returns to the site at least twice a year. It helps her feel connected, she said.
Like the rest of Hulme's class, Falls junior Jodie Childers was in grade school when Hamilton became a witness to history.
Ten years later, Childers said witnessing the memorial's dedication changed her.
''I knew it happened, but I never felt the emotion of it,'' Childers said. ''To see how torn up people were made me realize that 9/11 went a lot deeper than a plane crashing into a field.''
This latest effort to raise funds for the memorial started last spring when Stefan Willis, then a student at Firestone High School and a member of the BPA chapter there, learned more about what happened on the flight. Willis was a junior in Heather Curry's business class at Firestone when he presented the program to state BPA adviser Barbara Trent.
Curry's class had decided to undertake 93 cents for Flight 93 as its own service project, but thought it should be a statewide effort.
Falls junior Kaitlin Grant sums up the significance of what she and her classmates are doing.
''We're part of history,'' she said. +