DECATUR — Nathan Mayberry wore a tie to school on Monday.
“I think it's important to wear a tie if you want to stand out — in a good way — and show respect,” said Nathan, a sixth-grader at Muffley School.
The school observed Patriot Day on Monday with visits from firefighters, police and paramedics who brought their vehicles for students to explore, and spoke about their jobs and how 9/11 changed them.
“Three hundred forty-three lives is a lot to lose in one day,” said Lt. Dave Gagnon, a Decatur fire inspector. He was referring to the number of New York City firefighters who died on Sept. 11, 2001, while responding to the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center.
“One thing I hope you retain from today is that we're all Americans first. We're neighbors to each other. Treat each other with respect. Be good to each other," he said.
None of the students at Muffley, which is kindergarten to sixth grade, had yet been born on 9/11. Principal Carrie Hogue said one of the teachers was only in first grade and doesn't have clear memories of the event. This is why, he said, it's even more important to teach the students about it, and instill a love of country and respect for first responders.
“We just want to make sure we're having them honored,” Hogue said. “One of our things at school is to honor people in our community, taking pride in our community and giving them due respect.”
The school collected donations last week for Hurricane Harvey relief. The Red Cross offered to come to the school on Monday afternoon to talk about what they do after Hogue called about making the donation.
“We need to remember all the people who lost family members that day and how all the first responders helped,” said Brianna Hubrich, a sixth-grader.
Classmate Tyonna Taylor wore a shirt with the American flag on it.
“I think it's important because so many lost their lives trying to save others,” she said.
Police jobs have changed in that they spend a lot of time now training for events that are very rare, Decatur police officer Mike Donaker said.
He told the students that before 9/11, police spent their training time learning to handle car crashes, domestic disputes and other routine calls. While they still do that, they've added intensive terrorism response training. Those types of events require equipment that makes them look different than they would on other calls.
“It's caused a perception that we have a more militaristic response,” Donaker said. “But rest assured that we respond to those other events just as we always did. Our goal is to get there in time to help you. And we know that the vast majority of the time, people support us.”
Mark Hunter of Decatur Ambulance Service introduced himself to the students as “one of your smiling paramedics.” Their job, he said, is to help sick or injured people and get them to the hospital.
“We're your friends,” he said.
Because Sunday was Grandparents Day, Hogue said, the school also invited grandparents to visit Monday.
Debbie Smith's granddaughter, Scarlett Bailey, is her only grandchild at Muffley this year, but Smith said her own kids and other grandchildren have been through the school, too.
It's important to teach kids about 9/11, she said.
“I hope (Scarlett) learns the importance of 9/11, how it affected the country,” Smith said. “And we hope it never happens again.”