Freedom Club trip honors veterans, victims of 9/11

SARANAC Students of Saranac High School have returned from a three-day tour of historical locations, giving them the opportunity to honor the nations veterans and those who lost their lives in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Fifty members of the schools Freedom Club, all of them seniors, spent April 24-27 touring New York City, Washington, D.C., and Gettysburg. The first stop on the trip was New York City where they began with a visit to the Statue of Liberty. In the afternoon, they had an emotional tour of Ground Zero and the Ground Zero Tribute Center. The group split up, and one group was led on a tour by a New York City firefighter. The man had lost many of his close friends and colleagues on Sept. 11 and shared many inspiring and patriotic stories with his audience. He told us how he was on vacation on 9/11, but hurried to the scene as soon as possible, Ron Blair recalled. The other group had a middle-aged woman, Eileen, who served as their tour guide. It was an emotional moment when, towards the end of the tour, Eileen revealed her youngest son, at the age of 23, lost his life in the World Trade Center buildings on 9/11. She closed the tour with her personal heartbreaking story and pictures of the 9/11 tragedy and her son. The Freedom Club members were able to honor the 9/11 heroes and victims in a tangible way. They donated $500 towards the building of the Freedom Tower Memorial and purchased a cobblestone that will be engraved and laid at the memorial. One of the clubs treasurers, Connor Thomson, presented the check for the cobblestone to a memorial representative during a ceremony at the site. In the early evening, the group was able to take in other NYC sites, such as Times Square, before boarding the bus for Washington, D.C., where they spent the next two days. The students visited numerous historical sites and memorials during their Washington tour, but the focal points were their tours of the White House, the Pentagon, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Arlington National Cemetery. At the cemetery, the students watched the changing of the guard. Justin Bryant, whose father was a U.S. Navy Seabee; Connor Thomson, whose uncle served in Vietnam; Alyssa Courture, whose grandfather is a veteran; and Jamie Graves, whose father served during Desert Storm, participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The changing of the guard was the most meaningful part of the trip to me, commented Steve Siskavich, who has six cousins serving in the military. The Holocaust Museum was the most meaningful to me, said Nick Desroches. It showed just how terrible the Nazis really were to the Jews. On Sunday, the club toured Gettysburg before returning to the North Country with a deeper appreciation for the nation and its stirring history. This is the fifth year Saranac teacher and club founder and advisor Elise Beaulieu has provided this opportunity for her students. Each year, the itinerary is slightly different, but the focus is the same. It is a time-consuming endeavor to which she and her assistant, Gretchen Bryant, are dedicated. I want them to see how history was made, what a beautiful country we have, and how we respect our fallen soldiers, Beaulieu said. The students were grateful for their teachers efforts, presenting Beaulieu and Bryant with cards and gift certificates at the conclusion of the trip.

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