By John R. Anderson
When Anne Sweeney visited the 911 Memorial in New York City last year, she interacted with a 14-year-old and went into teaching mode. When she told her friends Beth Ann Cooksey and Kristin Forgues about her experience, an idea was hatched, and Forgues told Auburn Mass Daily, “We need to educate the next generation.” Cooksey pitched the idea to AMS Principal Joe Gagnon, and the presentation grew from there.
911 is part of the grade 8 curriculum at Auburn Middle School, and moments of silence are held in many U.S. schools, but connection with a victim makes the learning experience more real. 20 years ago, a student could have interviewed a WWII veteran or even a Holocaust survivor for a project, but that is much less likely today. Many adults in the Eastern Massachusetts knew a victim of 911, or they have a friend who knew a victim. Now, 600 AMS students have a connection to a victim, and the horror of that morning is more personal.
Another part of the AMS program was the Flag For Hope project started by artist Marcos Antonio. The 9’x5’ canvas has travelled around the country, and thousands of Americans have put red, white or blue impressions on the fabric to create an unique American Flag to honor military personnel and promote national unity.
The fifty stars are reserved for notable citizens representing a broad range of roles in society. Some of the Stars are Senator John McCain, General Colin Powell, Sandra Day O’Connor and Muhammad Ali.
Lt. Sweeney is the Flag for Hope Memorial Star: “In memoriam of all who have died from attacks on America.” He is the only Star recognized posthumously, and the five points of his star were made by his mother, his father, his brother, his sister, and his wife. The Flag For Hope will likely be permanently displayed at some national site like The Smithsonian.
Many school presentations are well rehearsed or even canned programs, but this was not. There is nothing that could have prepared Anne Sweeney for the emotions she felt during her talks, and the emotional reactions from the audience was sincere. In a recent interview, Kristin Forgues said, “With each presentation, Anne was more and more relaxed. That says a lot about healing.” She added, “So many kids made such a connection, an emotional connection.”
In a world that often feels like it’s filled with bad things, Anne Sweeney found some good, and her efforts will assure that Lt. Brian “Moose” Sweeney is never forgotten.