The images on the screen of two burning buildings were a few years older than the Democracy Prep Endurance scholars looking up at them. Transfixed, they leaned forward in their seats to get a closer look at the photos that had long been seared into the minds of the teachers who had escorted them to the auditorium.
The pictures belonged to Mr. Hefele, a veteran of the New York City Fire Department, and the father of DPE teacher, Lauren Hefele. He had been one of the hundreds of firefighters that responded to the emergency calls at ground zero, 15 years ago today on September 11, 2001.
He was invited to spend Friday morning at DPE sharing photos, memories, and answering questions during a special town hall presentation.
As he clicked through the photos, he paused to tell stories about the acts of bravery he witnessed that day. His job was to keep the water coming, he said. Focusing on this act allowed him to continue to help as much as he could in the wake of a tragedy that was continuing to unfold all around him.
It is almost hard to believe that his audience, a group of seventh-grade scholars, had never known the towers as a giant symbol of the American financial market, a guidepost hinting to travelers that they were heading toward downtown Manhattan, or as a major landmark of their hometown.
Assistant Principal, Kelly Lerash stood on the side of the auditorium as the scholars listened to the presentation and asked Mr. Hefele questions about his experience. She was around the same age as her students on September 11, 2001. Their captivation and curiosity throughout the presentation was moving, she said.
“I was trying to hold back my tears listening to his story and watching their facial expressions as they absorbed something so distant from their experience,” Ms. Lerash said. “I hope they take a moment today to appreciate the everyday American heroes that fought to not only preserve the country where we live but also the city they are growing up in.”
Watch a portion of the presentation below:
— DEMOCRACY PREP (@DemocracyPrep) September 11, 2016