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Students turn to peace

September 12, 2007|By Brianna Bailey

The U2 song “One” echoed through the gym of Corona del Mar High School as kids filed into the bleachers dressed in designer jeans and their new back-to-school shoes. The helium balloons tied to the bleacher guard rails were red, white and blue, but there were few references to 9/11 at Corona del Mar High School’s assembly Tuesday to mark the sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

Student organizers opted to hold a “Unity Assembly” to mark 9/11, instead of a more traditional remembrance of the 2,974 people who died in the attacks. The event focused on world peace and forgiveness.

“We didn’t want to do the classic 9/11 assembly,” said 16-year-old junior Monique Danser, a member of the school’s Human Relation’s Council, which organized the event. “We didn’t want the candlelight vigil.”

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Most of the students at Corona del Mar were in grade school Sept. 11, 2001, and have attended an annual 9/11 remembrance assembly every school year since, Danser said.

“We wanted to talk about the lessons we could learn from 9/11 like forgiveness and peace, so it doesn’t happen again,” said 16-year-old Corona del Mar junior Maddie Todd, also a member of the Human Relations Council.

Corona del Mar gym teacher Gary Mahieson, a U.S. Air Force Reserves officer who served in Afghanistan, led the school in a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims, but spoke only briefly on 9/11 and terrorism.

“When we think of 9/11 a lot of things flash through our minds and memories,” Mahieson said. “We think of people who died and also of the some 3,500 people who have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

In keeping with the theme of tolerance and forgiveness, Anti-Defamation League spokeswoman Darcy Fehringer presented the school with a banner declaring Corona del Mar “No Place for Hate.”

Corona del Mar students also invited Newport Beach resident Linda Beihl to talk at the assembly about the African concept of “ubuntu,” or, respect and understanding for individuals and community. Beihl’s daughter, Amy Beihl, was killed in South Africa in 1993 because she was white, although she was working to register black South Africans to vote.

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