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Songs to heal the wounded soul

Tragic photos, lit candles, music and some tears filled Ironton High School's auditorium yesterday morning.

A group of junior high music students paid tribute to the heroes and victims of Sept. 11.

"This is a sad event and this is our contribution to respect the loss of life," Erin Sowards, a junior high music teacher, said. "The kids have taken tremendous charge by picking out all the songs."

After the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Madison McDaniels, an eighth-grader, seventh-grade student McKenzie Reed sang "The Star Spangled Banner."

"I was very, very nervous," Reed said. "I almost cried before I sang the song."

Later, the students recited various poems including one titled, "Freedom and Mother America." Some of the lines included, "We were invincible, it was a lie," and "Our hearts are broken and we are in tears, but we refuse to live in fear."

The school also presented its slide show presentation, "Can't Cry Hard Enough," with songs such as Alan Jackson's "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?"

Some of the students in the audience sang along with the Jackson song and cried.

"I cried when I saw it," said Mary Bowen, a seventh-grader. "You just remember things that happened when you saw those people's faces."

Ben Maffettone, who now works for Southeastern Ohio Emergency Medical Services, was a New York City firefighter for 26 years. He was born and raised in Brooklyn.

His 24-year-old nephew and his best friend, both firefighters, died in the World Trade Center last year. He shared his story with the students and answered their questions after the program.

"He died proudly doing what he did," Maffettone said about his nephew. "The heroes of this country deserve credit."

To close the ceremony, Sowards' students spread across the auditorium with lit candles singing "God Bless America."

"The kids did a tremendous job," said Principal Jerry Watson. "They put out the effort with not much time to do this."

"Observing Sept. 11 at this age or any allows kids to appreciate our freedoms," Superintendent Stephan Kingery said. "When we're attacked, that puts our freedoms in jeopardy. We need to be able to stand up and fight. If we don't, no one else will." Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune