Group of Pineville students visit Flight 93 Memorial

Published 10:06 am Thursday, April 25, 2024

The Pineville Independent School Board heard from teacher Kim Yates and a group of students who were able to make a special trip to the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania thanks to the Gary Sinise Foundation and the 9:57 Project.

Yates explained that she was looking for a way to connect her students to 9/11 and help them understand how important that event was to our history.

“All of us in this room, except for these kids, we have an emotional connection to that event,” she said. “I was an 11th grader when it happened and it was a pivotal time in my life. . . No kid in our school today was even alive when 9/11 happened. So when I try to talk about it to those kids, they just weren’t getting it and it was very frustrating for me.”

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About two years ago she did a random search and randomly came across a group called the 9:57 Project.

The 9:57 Project was started by Peter Findler, a teacher in D.C., and his friend John Hamilton, an Army pilot. They decided it would be really beneficial to bring veterans into schools to talk to students.

“John came to Pineville and spoke to my senior classes and it was a really great experience,” Yates said. “After that Peter contacted me and said he wanted to partner with our school on a podcasting project where students would interview veterans and the podcasts were actually housed in the Library of Congress.”

Pineville students got to be one of the first groups to do those interviews and last spring eight PHS students interviewed veterans and those podcasts are now in the Library of Congress.

“It was a great experience for our kids and they did such an amazing job that in the fall Peter contacted me and said the Gary Sinise Foundation wanted to take our kids to the Flight 93 Memorial and they were going to pay for everything,” Yates said.

A few weeks ago a group of 30 students from Pineville along with 10 from Corbin made the trip on a charter bus. The Foundation also provided money for snacks and paid for meals and hotel rooms.

“It was a life-changing experience for me so I know for our students it was a wonderful experience,” Yates said. “I wanted to give them an opportunity to tell you what they experienced and the ways it impacted them.”

She added that the 9:57 Project wants to take a group of Pineville kids to New York.

“I wanted to give you guys that information because I think it’s a great opportunity for our kids in Pineville,” she said.

Senior Emily Barnett said she was grateful to be able to go on the trip to Flight 93 Memorial.

“It was such an amazing experience. It opened so many doors for me and so many other students at Pineville and I don’t even think they realize it yet,” she said. “As a senior I won’t be here next year to go on another trip like that but it’s given me a lot of connections and skills that maybe I didn’t have before. I can use John Hamilton now as a reference and it’s so amazing to me that I have that in my pocket.”

Burnett also told the board that Mrs. Yates was given the Spirit of  Flight 93 Award in Pennsylvania.

“I think that’s kind of a big deal for our school. A lot of people here feel like Pineville is so small and people don’t even realize we’re here or recognize us, but that award in itself says a lot about what Pineville can do and what our students can do,” Burnett said. “I can hopefully use something from this trip to further my future.”

Seventh grader Audrey Yates explained that there were a total of 40 kids on the trip because there were 40 passengers and crew members that lost their lives on Flight 93.

“Everybody got one that they represented and then we got to go to the museum to try and find things about that person. My person was Joseph DeLuca, I couldn’t find much about him but I did find his seat. He was in first class right at the front of the plane. He was 52 years old and he was just on vacation with his girlfriend,” she said.

Audrey said one of the biggest things for her was being able to walk along the path that the plane took.

“We actually got  to go out on the field where the plane crashed on the sacred ground. I thought being physically there and where it happened helped me connect to the whole thing,” she said. “Ken, one of the family members of one of the victims on the plane, took us over to a tree that had a piece of the plane in it and it was growing around it. We actually got to touch part of the plane. Being able to walk around there really helped me to connect to the event, even though I wasn’t even born when it happened and I didn’t really understand it until I got there and actually saw everything.”

Sophomore Zak Brown said what stood out to him the most was being able to talk to veterans at the memorial.

“That really inspired me because I want to go into the military and that shows character. Their stories are very impactful and emotional,” he said.

Mrs. Yates thanked the board and Principal Catrina McDermott for allowing her to take the kids on the trip.

She said that usually when kids go on a trip they complain about the food or that it was too hot or too cold or whatever. This time she said the one complaint she heard when the students got back to their hotel was that they didn’t get to spend enough time with the veterans.

“I think that speaks volumes about our student body. Everywhere we went everyone we interacted with talked about how amazing our kids were,” Yates said. “We have a lot to be proud of because we have great kids at Pineville. I’m really proud of them and their willingness to ask questions and talk with people and learn.”

School Board Member Kaki Smith commended Yates and all of her students.

“I’m so proud of our Pineville students that went and represented us so well,” she said. “I’m also very proud of Kim for finding this, plus getting that award is such an honor for our little town.”