The attacks by the foreign terrorist group Al Queda on September 11 continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of virtually every American.
We continue to reflect on the events of that day. We continue to mourn the 3,996 Americans that were lost. We also continue to honor our service people and emergency responders- firefighters, police officers, EMTs, etc.- who put themselves in harm’s way in an effort to protect and save lives.
On Sep. 11, 2015, the Kingsway athletic department, led by Athletic Director June Cioffi, came together to honor local service people for their dedication to our community, in conjunction with the school’s scheduled football game versus Hammonton.
“As an athletic department, we wanted our kids to honor our service people and remember that sacrifices that were made,” said Cioffi. “Getting kids to be patriotic and being proud of their country is important. Most of our students are too young to remember the events of that day. We must know what we stand for as a country and know what we have. As educators, we have to impress this point.”
Every athlete and coach wore grey shirts with the motto “Committed to Excellence” printed on the back. The athletic day began with an “Athletes Summit” for its fall athletes.
This acted as a pep rally, but more importantly was used as an opportunity to recall what it means to be a Kingsway Dragon and how Dragons carry themselves. Then athletes went off to their respective practices.
At the conclusion of their practices, the athletes came together as an athletic student body to dine together in the school cafeteria. Then the athletes lined up into two lines and marched out to the end zone of the football field. They then marched out in these two lines towards the center of the field to Lee Greenwood’s song “God Bless the USA” creating a tunnel.
At the conclusion of the song, Toby Keith’s patriotic anthem “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” began to play, while Kingsway raised its brand new breakaway banner for the football team.
However, at the climatic point of the song when the football team normally would break through the banner, something truly special took place. Yes, the football team did run through the banner…. but it was our local emergency responders who ran through the banner with the football team surrounding them.
To the standing ovation of an emotional, raucous audience, who were surprised by this event, the service people and football team ran through the tunnel created by the rest of the athletic student body. The emergency responders then veered towards the home stands and took a much deserved bow.
Then, during the coin toss, Kingsway’s beloved school resource officer, Sgt. Rich Jaramillo, was given an additional surprise, as he was called forward to preside over it. Then the community, with its emergency responders present and its entire athletic student body sitting in a special reserved section, came together yet again to root the Dragons football team on against Hammonton.
“9-11 affected us so deeply,” said Cioffi. “I replay that day in my mind often. This was about more than the game. It also was about the learning, the shirts, the bonding, the athletic summit, the show of support. Our kids really showed that the ‘Committed to Excellence’ motto of our district is real.”
“I was so proud of our kids,” Cioffi continued. “They bought into that whole night and really understood the lessons of that day. Everyone chipped in to make this happen, from the coaches to the administration to the cafeteria staff. I have watched the tape of the pregame almost every day. I have so much pride in our young people and our community. I am proud to be a Dragon right now.”
Likewise, we all should understand the sacrifices that so many have made and be proud to be Americans as well. Our service people and emergency responders certainly deserve this much.