Students at Calusa Elementary gather to celebrate Patriot Day

By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld….

Everyone participates during the Patriot Day ceremonies at Calusa Elementary.

It was a sea of red, white and blue at Calusa Elementary School in West Kendall on Friday, Sept. 9, when the students celebrated Patriot Day.

More than 800 children waved their flags when God Bless the USAwas sung by parents Diana Morales and James Kirk and the National Anthem was sung by Jackie Mendez.

The color guard from Boy Scout Troop 811 presented the flag and each class sang patriotic songs before honoring three men who went to war for America. One, former Air Force firefighter Carlos Martinez, attended Calusa from second to fifth grades; the second, Javier Otero, was a former PTA co-president and the third, Glenn Grahl, sent his children to Calusa. Grahl is now working at MAST Academy, in charge of the Coast Guard ROTC.

The school also recognized former Calusa teachers Judy Lockhart, Judy Grant and Joyce Spar.

It was a moving ceremony that promoted patriotism and citizenship and a tribute to those who served our country after 9/11.

“This was all spearheaded by [teacher] Lynn Edwins,” said Calusa principal Carmen B. Fuentes. “She came to me and Patriot Day. I’m so proud at the way it came out.”

Fuentes said her son was 8 months old on Sept. 11, 2001. He was one of the fifth grade students participating in the patriotic assembly. She remembers how scary that day was for her.

“I was an assistant principal at the time,” she said. “A friend called and I’m talking on the phone as the second plane went in.”

At Calusa, former teachers Grant and Lockhart had taken their students to physical education. Lockhart heard about the plane, so she told Grant to turn on the TV. They also watched the second plane crash into the second tower.

Grant said she was shocked that this type of thing could happen in our homeland.

“It was a very sad day in our country’s history,” she said.

Lockhart said it was almost like the day John F. Kennedy was shot.

“It was so unbelievable what we saw,” she said.

Both teachers talked to their students when they came back from PE.

They were pleased to go back to the school for Patriot Day, although they had to wipe their eyes a few times during the patriotic songs.

“It’s a good thing they did this today,” Lockhart said. “The oldest child here today was just born. Kids don’t understand patriotism. They don’t have that sense of being an American.”

The Calusa students sang Yankee Doodle, God Bless America, This Land is Your Land, America the Beautiful, I Like it Here, This is My Country, America, We Love the USA, and You’re a Grand Old Flag.

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