Project Lit Hosts 9/11 Memorial


Lucy Dixon, Editor-in-Chief

On Friday, Sept. 10, James Island Charter’s Project LIT held a memorial service in the library dedicated to the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The event started off with student discussions, speeches made by 9/11 survivors, and displays about the history of 9/11.

English Teacher and Project Lit Chairman Ms. Scruggs organized the event. “When I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of 9/11 I knew that we had to do something,” she said.

Ms. Scruggs had a personal connection to 9/11, which made the memorial that much more important to her. “I grew up in New York, I moved to South Carolina two weeks before 9/11 as a young adult, and I was terrified that I would never get home or see my family again,” she said. “It was a level of uncertainty that I had never experienced before.”

For the speakers, she reached out to Chevalo Wilson-Debriano, a former firefighter and first responder to 9/11 and Katlin Montella, a JI art teacher and daughter of a first responder.
“We were really lucky that we had two speakers in Charleston who were willing to share their stories with our students,” Scruggs said.

Chevalo Wilson-Debriano shared his emotional experience of witnessing the horrific events of 9/11. He was called to the scene and narrowly escaped being crushed by the debris of the second tower collapsing. He lost many friends that day and his life was never the same after 9/11.

Katlin Montella was in sixth grade during 9/11, and her father is one of the few surviving first responders to 9/11. She shared her experience of almost losing her father and how her life changed course after the event.

Ms. Montella said, “I feel it’s important that our students get a personal view because things like 9/11 can sometimes seem fake. You see these images going over and over, and it seems like a movie, but it’s not. It’s real. I hope that I informed students on how much of a change that 9/11 made in people’s lives.”

Ms. Montella did not know if her father was alive when she heard of the attack on the twin towers. He came home, luckily, but was full of survivor’s guilt after he lost everyone in his firehouse, people who were like family to him.

Montella’s family had to uproot their lives in New York and start over due to the tragic event. This did, however, lead to her life in South Carolina and her job as an art teacher at JI.

When asked about the JI memorial, she said, “I thought it was beautiful. It was definitely more personal and the fact that it was a smaller group helped everyone understand 9/11. In the future, we can have more sessions and publicize it a little bit more so that we can get the word out to more students because of how well it went. I think that the sessions are really important, especially on that day in history. It’s not always easy for me to talk about it, but I’m open to talking whenever anyone has questions.”

There was also a virtual presenter, Alan Gratz. He is author of the new book Ground Zero, which connects 9/11 to the war in Afghanistan. He talked about the effects of America’s response to 9/11 on the civilians of Afghanistan.

Ms. Scruggs added, “I hope that the memorial provided a firm understanding of what happened 20 years ago and what is happening currently in Afghanistan and the series of events that led to that.”

The memorial concluded with “hope trees” in which the participants wrote down hopes and prayers for 9/11 survivors and hung them on trees.

The memorial was incredibly powerful, and the speakers brought a new level of understanding for the students who were born after 9/11.

The next Project LIT event is November 5, and the event will be based on the book Slay by Britney Morris.