DECATUR — Camden Dowers hadn't yet been born on Sept. 11, 2001, but he knows what happened that day.
The eighth-grader at Dennis School was part of a group that delivered stuffed toys, baked goods and gift cards to first responders in Decatur on Tuesday in memory of the first responders who died in the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
“I thought it was a good idea,” Camden said. “I thought it was a tragic event, and I like helping out whenever I can.”
When his teacher, Sara Bodzin, suggested the project, he said, the students were all for it, they said.
“(Bodzin) put it out on Facebook and asked our community in the West End and asked people to donate things to her to help,” said Shyan Cook, a seventh-grader.
It didn't take long for the community to respond, said Paolo Tonelli, also a seventh-grader.
Bodzin brought the three students and seventh-graders Rachael Harrelson and Antonio Thornell along to deliver the items Tuesday.
“9/11 rings true for me as I'm sure it does for you,” Bodzin said to the firefighters at Station 1, when she and the students arrived with the items. They also delivered a load of items to Station 3, which serves Dennis School, and to the Decatur Police Department.
“I remember sitting in seventh grade when we heard about it, and for the last six years of teaching, I've been trying to get (students) to feel the way we felt on 9/11, which we can't," she added. "They don't know, luckily, they've never been in that situation.”
Bodzin knows that firefighters and police often hand children a stuffed toy animal when they're handling calls, because it comforts the child, so bringing a bin full of those along was part of the project.
“That's really helpful,” said fire department Lt. Justin Kraus. “We do give those out quite a bit.”
The baked goods, and the gift cards to businesses such as Dunkin' Donuts provide first responders with a treat when they need one, Camden said.
One of the things important to learning at Dennis School, Bodzin said, is that when things need to be done, you shouldn't wait for someone else to do it.
“When we see a problem in our community, we take it on,” she said. “We don't wait for somebody else to do it. We have our Habitat for Humanity house that we're working on, we have our community garden, we have other community projects.”
The second-graders at Dennis wrote thank-you letters to first responders, and Bodzin said that while the seventh-graders' letters were more eloquent, she hoped the little ones' letters would also bring a smile to first responders.
The anniversary of 9/11 is a somber day for first responders, Kraus said, though they try to come to work most days and look at what they do as “just our job.”
“To us, this is our employment,” he said. “We come here, we do our job, we go home. We don't like to think of it as much more than that in many ways because it's what we do on a day-to-day basis.
But it brings to mind that this is a little bit more than a regular job, too. We know it has a huge impact on the community, and I'll be honest, it's nice to have the community recognize us.”