Chris Kuhn and 26 classmates have gotten a lesson in the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America.
The students in Jud Hartman’s eighth-grade home room at St. Paul of Akron Elementary School on Brown Street have written the names of every one of the 3,042 victims of the 9/11 attacks on note cards — one name per card.
“There are so many people!” said Chris, 13, of Lake Township, as he looked at the list of names he had put on cards.
“So many people.”
The project was the idea of retired Akron firefighter John Woofter of Coventry Township, who put up a 9/11 memorial display in 2009 on the north side of East Warner Road, just east of the Firestone Country Club.
This year, he asked his neighbor, Robert Brodbeck, principal of the Catholic grade school, whether his students might want to do some service hours on his Sept. 11 memorial.
Brodbeck, in turn, asked Hartman whether his home room could write down the names for Woofter’s project.
Woofter’s idea is to pass out the note cards on the 11th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon and the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 into a field in Shanksville, Pa.
On Tuesday, Woofter will sit at a table under an umbrella at the memorial and hand out cards to anyone who visits the site.
He will ask that people who get the cards pray over the names.
“It has become a passion of mine that people do not forget 9/11,” said 70-year-old Woofter.
Among the victims were 343 active firemen, three retired firemen, two volunteer firemen and 63 police officers from a variety of departments, including the New York City Police Department and the New York Port Authority.
Woofter, a Marine veteran, was at a golf outing with 300 other firemen and retired firemen in Indiana 11 years ago when the planes flew into the World Trade Center.
“It was a pretty somber moment,” said Woofter, who put in 28 years on the Akron Fire Department, retiring as a lieutenant. He breaks up easily when talking about the attacks.
Teacher Hartman said he was a senior at Archbishop Hoban High School in 2001. He had left school the morning of the attacks with his father to get his senior picture taken.
He teaches health, art and religion, along with science at St. Paul.
“They ask a lot of questions,” he said of the students, who for the most part have no memory of the attacks because they were about 2 years old at the time.
For example, Hartman said, they want to know “what happened to the people above the fires.”
He said it is a very important duty for him to teach young people about 9/11.
“Their lives are different because of what happened,” he said.
Students were told how close America became as a nation the day of the attacks and in the weeks and months afterward, Hartman said.
Principal Brodbeck said the students are learning an important lesson in U.S. history by writing the names down one at a time.
“It is real life,” said Brodbeck, 62 and a graduate of St. Paul school in the 1960s,
Too young to remember
Student Abbey Lewis, 13, of Coventry Township, called what happened that day “a real tragedy” and said that in a way, she is glad she wasn’t aware of what was happening at the time because she was only 2 years old.
“I feel kind of glad I wasn’t there to witness it,” she said.
Paige Harbarger, 13, of Akron, said she thought of what each person might have been thinking about as she wrote down each name.
“I just can’t even imagine what must have been going through their heads and what their families must have gone through and are still going through,” she said.
“It is really scary to think about because we are still vulnerable.”
Along with being a firefighter, Woofter has another connection to the tragedy: He worked on sheet metal that was used in the World Trade Center when he lived in New York City in the early 1970s.
“I just want to keep the memory fresh,” Woofter said.
Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.