Lia Douglas was only two months old during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
That hasn’t stopped her, however, from researching the tragic day for most of her life. Using that knowledge, the Lorain County JVS junior won this year’s 9/11 essay contest and read her work in front of fellow students Monday.
Since erecting a 9/11 memorial complete with a seven-foot portion of a beam from the World Trade Center in 2012, the JVS has held an essay contest followed by a memorial ceremony every year at 8:46 a.m. — the same time American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the WTC’s north tower.
Douglas and her family lived about 45 minutes outside of Washington, D.C., during the attacks.
“The vast majority of the people here today don’t even remember 9/11, myself included,” she said. “We have family members and friends who experienced this. They knew what it was like to go through this. It hits very close to home. Even if we don’t remember it happening, we need to realize we’re the next generation. If we want the world to change, it has to fall to us.”
JVS seniors Madison Murphy and Kent Hurlbert constructed a wreath and laid it next to the memorial.
“This opportunity I’ve been given today is huge for me,” said Hurlbert. “I’ve never gotten to do anything like this and absolutely wanted to be a part of it. I wasn’t around when this happened either, but I’ve been very well-educated on it and what came about because of it. It’s impacted everyone. I just want to thank everyone who helped out during the attack and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
The memorial was designed by JVS students in programs such as computer design, public safety, masonry trades, and collision repair with the help of local volunteers. Marketing and management students took the lead in fundraising efforts for construction in early 2012. It was dedicated Sept. 22, 2014.
“It’s very important for students to take a half-hour out of their day to remember what happened on 9/11,” said JVS high school principal Jill Petitti. “It’s become such a ritual that I have students in August asking me, ‘When do I start my essay?’ They know the ceremony is coming and want to be a part of it. I never have to hunt anyone down.”
Douglas said building an informational bridge between people who are old enough to remember 9/11 and those who aren’t is very important to her.
“If we want a world where we’re all equal one day we all have to work toward it together,” she said. “Yes, we’re very blessed to have the rights we do, but for every right we have, a responsibility comes with it. It’s not free. People paid a price for it. This is an honor for me to get to say that to my peers.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.