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IHS, PHS bands unite for Sept. 11 victims

Friday night, the marching bands of Ironton and Portsmouth high schools combined in a sea of orange and black and red and blue to perform patriotic songs at halftime. The show was a tribute to the heroes of Sept. 11, 2001.

When Portsmouth's band began practicing in May, planning began for a patriotic show during the week of Sept. 11, Jeff Freytag, Portsmouth's band director, said. After noticing which school was visiting that week, he decided to invite Ironton's band to join the show.

"The bands playing together is nice for our students and our country," he said. "This is also a thrill for the kids. They ate together earlier today and Ironton cheered for us during our pregame."

Ironton's band had practiced independently for a few weeks, Erin Sowards, assistant band director, said. However, they only practiced with Portsmouth's band for four hours Friday. Both bands learned new drills for this show.

During some numbers, both bands dealt with new direction.

"It was a whole new band,"Andrew Cronacher, Ironton's field commander,

said. "It was very strange, but we all worked very well together."

"Andrew and I went to the same drum major camp, so we have almost the same commands," Ali Hull, field commander for Portsmouth, said. "It's an incredible honor to be involved in this. We had (schools) with such a sports rivalry come together."

Portsmouth and Ironton's bands have also competed against each other in competitions, said Bill Rath, Ironton's band director.

"I walked into this thinking there was going to be attitude from both sides," Hilary Crager, a senior trombone player for Ironton, said. "But, we pulled together as one. We realized what we were here for and did what we had to do. This was just amazing."

As the bands played "America's Finest," "America the Beautiful," and "God Bless America," many spectators from both sides were on their feet. The show's ending featured both color guards holding a large flag with band members whipping out flashing lights as balloons were released into the sky.

With all other heads bowed, Jeff Keaton, a senior member of Portsmouth's band, played "Taps" on his trumpet.

"This seemed like the most important thing I've ever done in my entire life," he said. "It seemed like the people who died on 9/11 were watching me every step of the way."

"Thank you Ironton!" and "Thank you Portsmouth!" was shouted after the show as many of the band members exchanging handshakes and high-fives. Amelia Pridemore/The Ironton Tribune