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Honoring 9/11 While Showcasing Skills

Oklahoma Masonry Students Built a Reminder that One of the Worst Days in U.S. History Saw Some of the Bravest Acts in American History.
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Wall from 2019-20. Inset photo: Students working on the 23-24 Tribute Wall. L to R: Christopher Galaviz, Brian Allen, Isaac Chavez and Erik Ibarra. Photos provided courtesy of Tulsa Technology Center.

At the start of each school year, masonry students at Tulsa Technology Center’s Lemley Campus in Oklahoma construct a 9/11 tribute wall to honor the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. SkillsUSA advisor and Tulsa Tech’s masonry instructor Chauncey Kila says that the students return to school in August and have until Sept. 11 to complete their project. It is a thoughtful start to the year that combines a U.S. history lesson with masonry.

Kila discusses with the students the impact on our nation of the three separate attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and the United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed in Pennsylvania. In his classes, students collaborate to design, plan and build a wall to honor the 2,996 lives lost that day. Each unique project is dedicated to the victims and to the bravery of the numerous citizens, police, fire and first responders involved in the tragedy. 

The morning and afternoon masonry classes perform most of the work on the wall. Kila remembers, “In the early years of the project, the a.m. and p.m. classes each built their own wall, but as the walls became more and more elaborate, I combined the classes to make a single wall, and we elicited help from other programs like electronics for special lighting and welding to make some of the pieces.”

“What I’ve noticed over the years is that this generation wasn’t even born yet, so they haven’t learned how it really felt. I show them some videos, they listen to the actual recordings, and I tell them about that day,” says Kila. “These memorials are a class project that unfolds into a history lesson that has meaning. Each memorial is unique and has a story behind it waiting to be told.”

“In planning for this year’s project, we got a feel for it and put our collective ideas together,” says postsecondary masonry student Walter Griffith. “That day will never be forgotten,” he continued. “Those people will always live in our hearts and memory and the things that transpired that day will always bring patriotism out in us.”

Once finished, the project is open for public viewing. “I remember one woman lost her son at the Pentagon and saw our wall on the news. She visited with her daughter and just started crying. She was so appreciative that we were honoring that day,” says Kila. “It’s because of stories like this, along with the recognition and feedback we receive, that we keep the tradition going every year.”

Watch a story about the Tulsa Tech students that aired on Tulsa KOTV 6.

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