September 20, 2012Around the grounds at Grosse Pointe North and South high schools last Tuesday students and volunteers staked 2,977 American flags, reminders of the tragedy befallen the 2,977 victims of the World Trade Center attacks in New York City Sept. 11, 2001.
"On the day we placed the flags, one woman from the community came up and asked what the flags were for," said South student Langston Bowens, chairman of the school's chapter of the Young Americans for Freedom, the group responsible for organizing the project at both schools. North junior Grant Strobl is North's chair.
"We kindly told her it was for a 9/11 memorial when she replied, 'Oh, 9/11 is today? I completely forgot.'"
A number of flags encircle the American flag, at half mast, at Grosse Pointe North High School. photo by Renee Landuyt.
Similar encounters occur across the country. They act as validation of the groups' commitment to taking part in the national project, known as the 9/11 Never Forget Project. It's North's second year and South's first partaking in the event the Young America's Foundation, a non-profit educational organization focused on providing, sharing and advocating for conservative ideas with students nationwide, started in 2003 once it discovered most college campuses were ignoring the anniversary.
"The goal of the project was to enlighten those who were too young to witness the attack and to provide them with a constant memory of the attacks on 9/11," said Strobl, awarded YAF's 2011-2012 Top Conservative Activist in the Nation and whose North chapter last year became the first school in southeast Michigan to display the American flags. "This  is the most important year because most in the classes behind me were too young at the time to remember the attacks."
Upward of 1,000 students assisted at North, Strobl said, with all social studies classes integrating the project into daily lesson plans. North's YAF chapter, founded in 2011, has an active list of more than 100 members. At South, about 35 volunteers and principal Matt Outlaw helped place the flags around the Kercheval Avenue side of the school.
"So far, the feedback was very great from the community, faculty, and the students," Bowens said. "People were very surprised and happy to find out that high school students decided to put on a memorial for 9/11."
The 9/11 Never Forget Project is one of several events planned at both schools for the 2012-2013 school year. This year marks the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s 1968 speech at South's campus, given three weeks before his assassination. To commemorate the speech, South's YAF, its administration and the national YAF are collaborating to host a top conservative speaker at South's campus. According to Bowens, current choices include Herman Cain, Allen West, Mia Love and Rick Santorum. A "Freedom Week," in which students rebuild and tear down a model of the Berlin Wall, and lectures from local conservative speakers are also planned.
North intends to host its own "Freedom Week," as well as organize a trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the YAF's Freedom Conference, No More Che Week and a Support Our Veterans on Veterans Day.
The goal this year, Strobl said, is to "do whatever possible to make these ideas prominent on campus."