With the recent passing of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a day when nearly 3,000 innocent and civilian Americans lost their lives to terrorism, we saw much of the country come together to memorialize and honor those lives.
High school students in the relatively small town of Ely, Minnesota, were no different. Weeks before the day, they made plans to decorate the schoolyard with the help of a local Young Americans Foundation group with small American flags, one for each individual who lost their lives on that fateful day. The students had even fundraised to pay for the 2,977 flags they needed.
However, as the date of their planned memorial drew closer, a few concerned adults put a stop to it, forcing the event to be canceled completely.
As it turns out, the group helping the students fundraise and erect the flags on the Ely Memorial High School campus is politically affiliated. And that’s simply not ok, apparently.
According to the Young Americans Foundation, a national conservative student group, they helped local students plan and participate in the nationwide 9/11: Never Forget Project. Like several others around the nation, the project was an initiative lead by students to remember those who had fallen, plant flags in their honor, and schedule a “campus-wide moment of silence or prayer.”
It’s not all that often that we see students stand up to remember things such as this, particularly when students of this generation didn’t even experience that terrifying day 20 years ago. They weren’t trying to be political or point the finger at one side or another.
Instead, all they wanted to do was remember and choose to never forget.
But, apparently, someone didn’t like the idea of these students holding a campus-wide event affiliated with a conservative group. In fact, the individual was so frustrated by the would-be event that they went, not to the school or the district board, but a local newspaper about it.
The Timberjay was contacted about the possibility of the local school choosing political sides and so reached out to the school for comment. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for others who heard of the incident to become “concerned” and push the school to do something about it.
And so they did.
Mere days before September 10, when the school event was to be held, the high school’s principal, Megan Anderson, made an announcement, letting the students know that their hard work and money were all for naught.
According to the Timberjay, her announcement said, “The Ely Student Council 9/11 Event scheduled for September 10th has been canceled. We will commemorate the 20th anniversary of September 11th at the Veteran’s Day ceremony in November.”
Superintendent Erik Erie confirmed this and explained the district’s decision, saying that it was due to the political affiliation of YAF. He asserted that they try to stay “apolitical” in everything they do as a public school. And since YAF has strong ties to a certain right-leaning political party, the school nor the district cannot “endorse” being partnered with them, even for something as simple as erecting flags in the schoolyard.
Now, to be clear, the school and any school, for that matter, certainly should try to stay apolitical at all costs. Their job has always been and always will be to educate our youth on the facts they need to become productive members of society. That does not include political beliefs or affiliations.
However, the school and those apparently concerned this would send the wrong message to students forget that 9/11 is not and was not political. It was an act of terrorism committed against our nation and at the cost of thousands of innocent lives. Just like any war before this or after, those lost lives deserve our respect and honor, even if they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
These kids weren’t asking to wave anti-Biden protest flags or even ones promoting climate change. They weren’t political activists. But now, thanks to their patriotism, they’ve been labeled as such and shut down.
What a travesty.