At 9:30 on the morning of Friday, September 10, the students of St. Johns High School filed into the school courtyard to pay tribute to those who died during the attack of September 11, 2001. As the students quietly stood in a semi-circle around the circular front drive, the St. Johns ROTC Alpha Company marched in solemn form to the school’s unadorned flag pole. Four members of the Color Guard approached the pole and ran the American flag, followed by the South Carolina state flag, to the top and then dropped it in reverence to half-staff. Falling back into formation, two other ROTC officers approached the flagpole and placed two wreaths and a plaque at its base in honor of those who have fallen and for PFC Akiel McKnight, a graduate of St. Johns who died while serving in Iraq. As the company stood at attention, 10th grade student Csar Servin played Taps on the saxophone, accompanied by band director Meyers on the steel drums.
“We’re doing our patriotic duty for those that died,” said Battalion Leader Eugene White. “It’s been a tradition for as long as I’ve been at St. Johns.”
As the crowd dispersed, a single garden arch remained in the middle of the courtyard. Covered in little paper leaves, the arch was constructed by the school’s art classes, under the direction of Art Director Dona Dowling, out of rebar in remembrance of all that was left of the Twin Towers following the 9/11 attack. On each of the fluttering paper leaves, students had written a message, either to the families of those that died in the attack or a memory of where they were and what they were thinking when the attack happened. Some just read, “In honor of Akiel McKnight”, or simply, “Peace”. Next week, the arch will be moved to the school’s new memorial garden which is being built during the national Day of Caring on September 14. There, according to Dowling, the raw metal will eventually be covered with the new life of climbing, blossoming vines.