The Smithfield-Selma community gathered on Monday to reflect on one of the nation’s most horrific tragedies with a ceremony at Smithfield-Selma High to commemorate the 16 year anniversary of September 11, 2001.
Students, teachers, administrators, community members, and first responders, along with JCPS Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow and the Johnston County Board of Education gathered at Smithfield-Selma High for the special ceremony.
“I’m very proud that here at Smithfield-Selma High we take the time time to pause and devote our time, energy, and effort to put this ceremony on because it’s well worth it,” said retired Navy Cmdr. and Senior Naval Science Instructor Mike Wegman. “I think if you ask the students they’ll tell you the same thing.”
Smithfield-Selma High has held ceremony commemorating 9/11 every year since 2002.
“It’s a time-honored tradition here,” said Wegman. “We take time to pause as a school to teach our students about 9/11, because most of them were either not born at the time, or they were infants at the time.”
Veterans as well as local law enforcement, fire, and EMS crews were honored for their service to the community.
“This is an important opportunity to reach out to the community,” said Wegman. “We want to memorialize the lost on that fateful day. But at the same time we want to honor the first responders, law enforcement for Johnston County, the towns of Smithfield and Selma, and our fire rescue and EMS.”
The school’s Navy Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (NJROTC) program led the ceremony. NJROTC Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Sanjuana Antonio-Olguin recounted moments of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Her fellow cadets, Chandler Meredith and Anselmo Antunez, struck a bell to signify each of the attacks.
“I’m really proud of my school and the student body for putting on this ceremony and for the respect they showed to the veterans and first responders,” said NJROTC Cadet Lt. Cmdr. Sanjuana Antonio-Olguin.
Dr. Renfrow was the guest speaker for the program, and he encouraged all students to honor those who lost their lives by finding ways to volunteer in their community.
“I hope my classmates took something away from this ceremony and remember all the lives that were lost,” said Antonio Olguin. “I hope that every time they see a first responder or a veteran that they thank them for their service and think about everything they’ve done for them.”
Following Renfrow’s speech, the school’s chorus group, the Spartan Voices, concluded the ceremony with the National Anthem, followed by student bugler Bryson Peacock playing taps while the NJROTC presented the colors.
“It’s one thing to teach a history lesson in a classroom. It’s another thing to actually have firsthand experience participating in an opportunity to memorialize and honor the victims and first responders. It helps the students connect with 9/11 more than if it was just a history lesson,” said Wegman.