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By Casey Christie / The Californian
BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Most Fairview Elementary School students weren't even born when terrorists attacked the Twin Towers and the Pentagon 12 years ago, but students nevertheless expressed their patriotism at Wednesday's ceremony commemorating the events.
Representatives of Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and State Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Visalia, made brief presentations thanking members of the Bakersfield City Fire Department for their work mentoring children.
Fairview has a partnership with nearby Bakersfield Fire Station No. 5. Once a month, about 20 children earn the privilege to hang out with firefighters at the station for a day.
The school uses that as an incentive to encourage academic progress and good behavior.
Several firefighters who have participated in the program came to the ceremony and were greeted like rock stars as they passed out pencils and stickers in front of a banner that read, "You can be heroes, too."
"We got their autographs," said a beaming Aminah Fogle, 9, clad in red, white and blue right down to her cheerfully painted fingernails.
Holly Morrison, 8, said she was excited that she got to meet firefighters.
"It was fun," she said wearing a red, white and blue dress with a firefighter badge sticker.
Fairview has held a Sept. 11 ceremony for several years. Fifth-grade teacher Mary Lou Martinez organizes it.
"It's to teach them about patriotism," she said, adding that respect for service is especially meaningful for her because she has relatives serving in the U.S. Marines.
Because they are so young, children often don't comprehend the significance of Sept. 11, Martinez said.
"When you talk to them, many of them don't even understand that we are still at war," Martinez said.
The teacher said she wants the children to know about love of country and sacrifice, and to applaud the service of first responders and those in the armed forces.
"The kids should appreciate everything they do for us," Martinez said.
Mary McGill joined the Bakersfield City Fire Department four years ago. On Sept. 11, 2001, she was in a helicopter as part of a wildland firefighting team.
"I'll never forget" 9/11, she said after Wednesday's ceremony.
McGill was undeterred in her goal of becoming a full-time firefighter, despite the deaths of more than 340 firefighters on 9/11.
"I like the variety of things you get to do, the physical demands of the job and of course the opportunity to help people. I get to meet the kids and educate them about safety," she said.
Bakersfield City Fire Capt. Michael Olson said it's important for children to pause on Sept. 11 to remember the fallen.
""Our homeland was attacked. That will stay with us forever," he said. "It will go into the history books."