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DECATUR – Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, is the last day to whoop it up before the austerity of Lent takes over today, Ash Wednesday.

Traditionally, in Christianity, the faithful give up some favorite thing for the six-week duration of Lent, or take on some task such as extra service or donations to the less fortunate, and “alleluia” is omitted from church songs and services until Easter Sunday.

At St. Patrick School, students always celebrate Mardi Gras with games and fun, but this year, there's an added twist.

Principal Jan Sweet received a call recently from the 9/11 Memorial committee asking if the school could do something to help with fundraising. The Memorial will feature a 13-foot beam from the Twin Towers that were destroyed by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001, and it will be placed permanently on the shores of Lake Decatur in Nelson Park.

Now stored in a warehouse, the beam, which has the remains of a filing cabinet crushed into it, has been brought to St. Patrick for the students to see, Sweet said.

“If there's anything that deserves support, it's a 9/11 memorial,” Sweet said.

A second memorial has also been planned for the Macon County Courts Facility, using a piece of wreckage from Flight 93, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field on that same Sept. 11. A first responder who was at that crash scene and had kept the piece of wreckage handed it to John Axe, driver of the truck carrying the Twin Towers beam, at a 9/11 anniversary event in September.

As part of the Mardi Gras festivities at St. Patrick, students made miniature parade floats out of shoe boxes. During Tuesday's carnival, and until next week, students can vote for their favorite float by putting money in an envelope. The money goes to the memorial's fund.

“The float that gets the most votes wins a prize,” said Sarah Keyes, a seventh-grader.

Older students helped younger students make the floats, though the designs and ideas were all the little ones', said Justice Chapman, also a seventh-grader.

Games were invented and built by the eighth grade, and seventh- and eighth-grade students manned the booths for the younger kids. Some of the games have been around for a long time because they're so popular, Justice said, especially musical chairs.

“I like (Mardi Gras) because we get to get out of our classrooms and get to know younger students, and have fun together,” he said.

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Education Reporter

Education reporter for the Herald & Review.

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