GONZALES — Nearly everyone has a moment in life they never forget, East Ascension High School teacher Dirk Schexnayder told the East Ascension senior class on Friday.
He was one of several speakers at a program commemorating the events of Sept. 11, 2001, organized by teacher Jamie Andrews and Amy Phillips.
Schexnayder said he was a student at EA, walking from his second block to his third block class on Sept. 11, 2001.
The intercom came to life and explained the inexplicable, Schexnayder said. The United States was apparently under attack. Out in the hall, another student said, “We’re all going to die.”
“I went home that day, and watched TV until the early morning trying to understand what was happening,” he said.
David Hernandez was a sophomore at EA, he said, and remembers hearing adults using the same kinds of phrases — “things will never be the same,” and “this will change the rest of your life.”
Things did change for Hernandez and fellow EA graduate Brent Amy. Both men told students a little about their time as soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — Hernandez in 2009 and Amy in 2005-06.
Richard Wall, new adviser to EA’s Air Force Junior ROTC program, had a brother-in-law working at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, and a sister who lived about 45 minutes from the site of the fourth plane crash in rural Pennsylvania.
It was a shocking day for all the speakers, as it was for Associate Principal Lauren Avery, “but there was a disconnect,” she said.
“I didn’t really feel connected to what happened until I had my children, and realized the value of what we have,” Avery said.
In addition to looking back at the events of Sept. 11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a short presentation compared attitudes today to attitudes during World War II.
There was a home front, organizer Jamie Andrews said, and Americans at home rationed gasoline, meats, and sacrificed on everything from nylon stockings to girdles to help the war effort.
“So how can you help?” Andrews asked.
Over the next week, until Sept. 16, East Ascension students will be collecting care package items requested by the 62 men and 16 women who serve in the U.S. Army’s 303rd Military Intelligence Unit in Afghanistan. One of those 62 men is Christopher Stinson, a 2008 graduate of EA.