Several University of Southern Mississippi students volunteered their time on Saturday morning to help improve the Thames Elementary School’s community garden to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The Southern Miss Center for Community and Civic Engagement coordinated the event as part of the 9/11 National Day of Service.
“The #WeAreHattie Project is a collaborative project between Southern Miss through the CCCE, the United Way and Volunteer Hattiesburg,” said Chris Ferrell, the program coordinator of the CCCE at Southern Miss. “We have collectively planned different projects throughout the Hattiesburg area just to give people different projects to do to benefit the community as a whole as our means of commemorating [9/11]. ”
Perry Overstreet, a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in forensic science, said it was important for him to give back to the community.
“Hattiesburg is where I’m from, and I used to go here to Thames, so just to be able to give the kids a garden that they can come play in and maintain is a positive way to give back,” he said.
Overstreet said he still remembers the tragedy of 15 years ago.
“I was in second grade,” he said. “On that day in particular, I remember my teacher’s daughter was a nurse in New York, so I remember her being panicked and people crying. We turned on the TV to the news, and we saw what was going on. We couldn’t quite grasp it at the time.”
Members of the University Baptist Church, who have adopted the Thames Elementary community garden as a service project, were also on site to help.
Church member Lida MacDowell recalled 9/11 better than most students at the site.
“It was a scary thing,” she said. “It was a very sad thing, and [it] made you want to help other people like they helped the people in New York.”
“I remember I was in the ninth grade, so that would put me around 13 or 14 [years old],” Ferrell said of his own experience. “I remember when I first heard about what happened, I was in band, the first class of the day. Word was traveling, and a student that sat next to me told me what had happened. Then, as we went through the day to our different classes, our classrooms had TV, and we turned on the news, and that was the news on every channel all day.”
As far as what that means now, in the present day, being able to come together to remember that, out of a tragic event, we can still create something positive for ourselves and our communities. That’s what we’re doing here at Thames Elementary and with our other community projects throughout the weekend.”
Volunteers throughout Hattiesburg participated in the two-day community service event at several locations across the city Friday and Saturday. The weekend’s activities concluded Sunday morning at Hattiesburg’s annual 9/11 memorial ceremony at the #1 Fire Station on Main Street.