Honoring those who serve us
by Doug Sands
Students from the primary and elementary schools at Eleva-Strum recently honored the public service workers in their communities in two programs: the annual Patriot’s Day and Fire Safety Prevention Week programs.
Patriot’s Day, a national memorial day set on Sept. 11, was made in honor of the firefighters, policemen and first responders who lost their lives in the attack on the World Trade Center. Of the 2,977 people killed in the attack, nearly 400 of them were public safety workers. These workers died bravely, trying to help their fellow Americans by rushing into the danger zone.
For several years, students from the Strum and Eleva schools have been coming together to honor Patriot’s Day. The day is meant to inform students on the magnitude of the attack as well as to help them understand the effect it has had on our nation. On Sept. 11, students from the Eleva and Strum schools were brought together at the primary school for a presentation.
This presentation began with a video compiled by principal Marty Kempf. Kempf’s video explained to the younger generations what actually happened on 9/11. It also discussed the positive matters that came out of the attack.
Kempf expressed that younger generations need some days like this to understand why the attack is so important in memory in the United States. He hoped the presentation helped encourage this understanding.
Along with the video, the presentation included introductions from several local public service volunteers in uniform. Policemen, firefighters, and first responders in the Eleva and Strum communities introduced themselves to the children gathered there. By getting around the children, the volunteers hope to make the kids feel safe around them. This is exactly what the firefighters, policemen and first responders want; children to see them not as scary people, but as people who can be approached in an emergency.
To honor the fallen, the primary school flew the flag at half-staff. The day of remembrance allowed students and volunteers alike to meet, as well as to give their respects to, those who perished in the attack.
A few weeks later, students from both schools were offered another chance to interact with local volunteers. Fire Safety Prevention Week came to the district; both staff and fire crews teamed up to educate Eleva-Strum children on the ins and outs of fire safety.
Fire Safety Prevention Week has its roots dug deep, tracing back all the way to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The fire, which consumed many acres of Chicago, burned for three days between Oct. 8-10.
In the hopes of preventing another fire disaster as this one, Americans decided to begin educating their children about fire safety. The very first Fire Safety Prevention Week kicked off in 1922. Each year, the educational program goes on during the Sunday to Friday time period in which Oct. 9 falls.
At the Eleva-Strum schools, the week was focused on educating students with relevant safety information to prevent a disaster of those proportions from happening again. Through the week, students learned many different things about fires; how to prevent fires from starting, how to make a fire safety plan, and what to do in case of an actual fire emergency.
The excitement came to a peak on Friday as the district brought in firefighters for live demonstrations. Firefighters from both the Strum-Unity and Eleva departments came in to give an in-person experience to the children. Students were given tours and demonstrations of the firefighter’s engines and equipment. Many of the students got the chance to operate a running fire hose. Others were allowed to come up close and personal with other rescue equipment.
One of the most exciting parts of the day came when the 4th-6th graders were given an additional educational experience. These students went through “The Smokehouse,” which was provided for the school’s use by the local departments. The Smokehouse itself is an interactive display from the Chippewa Valley Fire Safety House that gives students a taste of what a real house-fire might be like.
The Smokehouse effectively mimics a real fire situation. Each student climbs the steps one by one into the darkness. With their hearts racing, students crawled through a living room filled with hazy fake smoke, keeping low, hearing many of the same sounds that might happen in a real fire. They follow a firefighter’s voice, where they crawl up stairs toward an open window; it is the only light that streams into the smokehouse. The window, pouring smoke, opens into startling brightness. Students come into the light to find a ladder strung out below. The students work their way down the ladder to reach safety again on the ground.
One of the biggest things that the organizers of Fire Safety Prevention Week hoped to give students was the understanding that firefighters are there to help. By personally introducing themselves to the students, as well as showing the kids what firefighters look like in full gear, the volunteers taught the kids not to fear these public helpers. In this way, children can assist their families in an emergency to ensure that everyone stays safe.
Both Patriot’s Day and Fire Safety Prevention Week gave primary and elementary students at Eleva-Strum a unique look at the safety personnel in their local community. This look--and the safety knowledge that comes with it--will help keep the younger generations safe.