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Bassett marks 9/11, honors local teacher
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Bassett High School seniors (from left) Matthew Craig, Cody Baker, Senior Army Instructor Col. David Hann, Hunter Woolridge, and Grant Hammock stand in front of a flag they raised Wednesday at a ceremony honoring the victims of the 9/11 attacks as well as teacher Melvin Brown on 50 years of service. (Contributed photo)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin staff writer

A flag ceremony at Bassett High School on Wednesday morning not only commemorated those who died as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but honored Mervin Brown Sr. for his half-century-long career in education.

“Today marks the twelfth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks on our country. The purpose of this ceremony is to teach patriotism, respect and honor to our students,” said Col. David Hann, senior Army instructor for the Junior ROTC at Bassett High School, according to an email from Melany Stowe, coordinator for parent and community outreach for the Henry County school division.

“Many were in kindergarten or even younger when the attacks occurred, so they may not remember,” Hann said.

In a phone interview, he said, “My grandfather told me about Pearl Harbor. My father told me about World War II. Now I’m telling these cadets about Sept. 11, 2001.” In the future, they need to teach their children about Sept. 11, he said.

JROTC cadets conducted the ceremony, according to Hann and a news advisory from the school division.

Hann said the ceremony began at 8:40 a.m., and a moment of silence was observed at 8:46 a.m. That’s the minute a plane hijacked by terrorists struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Taps was played during the ceremony, Hann said. He estimated the entire ceremony lasted 10 minutes at the most. “There must have been 200 or 250 people out there,” he said.

He said the ceremony was for the entire student body, but some students did not attend because of such things as testing.

There was a somber mood among students who attended, and they took it seriously, he said.

“All of our lives were changed on that day, military and non-military,” he said of Sept. 11, 2001. He added that he was still on active duty in the Army on that day.

The flag that was raised during the ceremony flew over the U.S. Capitol on May 22 in honor of Brown for his 50 years of service as a teacher in Virginia, including 38 years in Henry County Public Schools, according to a news advisory from the school division. It added that Brown has given the flag to Bassett High School, and the school chose to raise the flag for the first time on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2011, at 8:46 a.m.

Brown taught math and/or science at Drewry Mason, Laurel Park and Bassett high schools, a number of years having a split schedule in which he served more than one school. For the last several years, Brown was a science teacher at Bassett High School. He officially retired June 30.

“I’m very much for remembering September 11. It’s one of the patriotic days of our time. I’m very much for keeping it alive,” Brown, 76, of the Laurel Park community, said in a phone interview.

“I feel very much honored and humbled,” Brown said of the flag in his honor.

Elizabeth Jones, a French teacher at Bassett High School, said last school year, each department at the school was asked to give 50 of something to Brown in honor of his 50 years in education. The foreign language department gave him “50 stars” by asking 9th District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith to arrange for a flag to be flown over the U.S. Capitol in Brown’s honor, Jones said. Brown received a certificate and gave the actual flag to the school, she said.

“It was nice to remember Mr. Brown and all his years in education by raising that particular flag” at Wednesday’s ceremony, Jones said.

She said she agrees with Hann that knowledge of Sept. 11 needs to be passed from generation to generation.

“I was teaching on 9-11. I remember how class came to a stop. All eyes were on the television,” she said.

She added there were teachable moments on that day and for weeks afterward. “We made sure students knew we were going to keep them safe ...,” despite what was happening in the world, she said.

“Now we want students to understand how powerful events of that day were,” she said.

Hann said the flag in honor of Brown was taken down at the end of the school day Wednesday, and it will be flown again on special days, probably Veterans Day and for Pearl Harbor Day.


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