NORWALK, Conn. Somber, serious and red, white and blue: West Rocks Middle School students had their first assembly of the Norwalk school year Tuesday morning.
Lynn McGuinn shared her story with the sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders: the day her husband , the father of her children, died, the day she "watched with unfolding horror what can now be remembered as the day that changed not only my life but the life of contemporary America."
The Sept. 11 memorial ceremony is a tradition at West Rocks, as poems written by students are read aloud and the string ensemble performs songs. It's a "great way to kick off the new year," Assistant Principal Joe Devellis said. "The rest of the year we try to surround that good will, be thankful and be helpful to other people in the building, and family."
"Students need to know our history," said Principal Lynne Moore. "We need to make history alive for students."
McGuinn's turn at the microphone marked the first time the assembly featured someone who had lost a loved one in that event.
McGuinn's husband worked at Cantor Fitzgerald, which was based in One World Trade Center.
"For me, 9/11 presented itself as a test for our nation and its people, and on Sept. 12, we as a nation passed that test," the Westchester County native told the children. "Regardless of each and every American's struggle to understand why or how this could have possibly happened in the land of the free, the nation came together as the home of the brave and faced up to very scary challenges in front of it with an absolutely unprecedented show of extraordinary humanity which began on Sept. 12."
After the assembly, McGuinn sat with seventh-graders in the auditorium as they watched a documentary about baseball pulling New Yorkers and the country together, as the Yankees fought to make it to the World Series.
The kids, who were babies at the time, peppered her with questions afterward: Were all the flags at half-staff? How many floors were there in the World Trade Center? What kind of jobs did the people have?
McGuinn told them Sept. 12 is the birthday of the oldest of her three daughters, who were 8, 10 and 18 when their father died. It was difficult, she said, but that was the day the nation pulled together.
"It was sad for her, but it was a day of strength for the country, a day of unity," she said. "...But it was tough for them, it was jarring. It was sad, emotionally. It was tough to understand."
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