Wakefield’s remembrance of the 20th anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks was squarely rooted in teaching and learning.
The memorial created on the school lawn was conceived by Wakefield Trustee and beloved community member General John Fairfield, and consisted of more than 2600 flags, one for each American who perished on 9/11. At the school’s flagpole was an additional grouping of international flags, memorializing the 372 citizens of 90 foreign countries who also died in the attacks. Finally, above this display of international flags was raised an American flag that flew over Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom, a gift to Wakefield from alumna Sherri Sturgis '95, a retired Air Force veteran who served in the Middle East during Operation Enduring Freedom.
Assisting General Fairfield in the execution of this ambitious plan were Wakefield History Department Chair Peter Findler, Mathematics Department Chair Stacy Hoover, and students from several Upper School classes. While it was Mrs. Hoover who “did the math” on how to distribute thousands of flags, equally spaced, in a cascading triangle down a curved hillside, it was the students, under her careful instruction, who made the design happen, placing the flags one by one with the aid of spacing tools created for the purpose by Mrs. Hoover’s husband.
This ingenious, and labor-intensive, plan did more than yield a powerful visual reminder for the community of the magnitude of the 9/11 tragedy--not only the result, but also the process provided opportunity for reflection. While students enjoyed their time out in the fall weather and there was much laughter and camaraderie, the full-day undertaking of arranging and placing 2,605 individual flags was a hands-on reminder of both the heft and the meaning of that number: 2,605 flags for 2,605 people.
For the very reason that that number is hard to reckon with, Wakefield will follow up the creation of the memorial on Monday with older students reading to their younger “buddy classes,” sharing age-appropriate stories of hope and resilience. In addition, Middle and Upper School History students will be collecting oral histories, learning about heroism on 9/11.
“The mission of Wakefield School is grounded in preparing our students to be capable, ethical, articulate citizens who seek the challenge, make a difference, and live extraordinary lives, each in his or her own way,” wrote Head of School Ashley Harper to the community. “[Our observance of this anniversary] is an opportunity to share how our country has also embraced this bold vision in times of trial.”