PANAMA CITY BEACH Fla. (WMBB) — The 20-year anniversary ceremony of 9/11 at Arnold High School put another meaning to the phrase “never forget.”
This is the first year almost every student was not alive for the actual day of the attacks.
All they know about that day is what they’ve learned in school and from older family members.
The theme of the ceremony was patriotism.
The Arnold Interact Club put together Friday’s event which brought together veterans, first responders, and Panama City Beach officials.
Interact President Erin Burke and Vice President Julia Patrick say this event took a lot of work to put on but it gets a very important message out to the student body.
“It’s important because whenever we are older, we shouldn’t forget what our history is,” Patrick said.
Everyone has a different story about what they were doing on that day.
Panama City Beach Fire Chief Ray Morgan said he was in fire school on the day of the attack.
He said some people in his class dropped out and went into the military, but he felt honored by what those men and women did that day.
Morgan said it was horrific but it also brought our country together.
“After 9/11 we all came together as a nation,” Morgan said. “We came together as one regardless of race, creed color background and it was powerful and it was emotional. Today we are so divided that I hope this generation will do a lot better job than we did.”
A piece of history from that horrible day 20 years ago still lives on at Arnold High School. On display near the auditorium, there is a real piece of The Pentagon. School officials say Arnold is the only high school in the country to keep this at their school.
Betsy Hulsey’s son Bret worked hard to bring this piece of The Pentagon to Panama City Beach.
“Teaching them the history and being able to show them a piece of that is just so amazing to me,” Hulsey said.
Hulsey’s sister-in-law and her son’s aunt was inside The Pentagon that day. She said her office was located where the plane hit the building, but she had a meeting early that morning that saved her life.
That personal connection gave them even more drive to share this history.
“I’m just proud to, you know, leave that legacy here at Arnold High School just honoring the victims of 9/11,” Hulsey said.
The keynote speakers say they hope if their students take one thing from Friday’s ceremony it’s unity.