D.C. remembers teacher, students, Navy victims of 9/11

WASHINGTON – School and city leaders, teachers and students were among the people who assembled on September 9, 2011 at Leckie Elementary School to remember three 9/11 victims affiliated with the Navy.

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, Councilmembers Marion Barry Jr. and Kwame R. Brown, and Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson led the crowd in remembering the three and planting a tree to memorialize them.

Located near military housing at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in the city’s southeast corner, the school and military families have a long history together. Over 100 of the base’s children attend the school, which Barry reported is the best performing school in the geographical area.

On 9/11, 11-year old Bernard C. Brown, a student at the school and the son of Chief Petty Officer Bernard Brown Sr. and Sinata Brown, lost his life along with a teacher at the school; two students from other D.C. elementary schools and two National Geographic Society chaperones, aboard American Airlines Flight 77 when it crashed into the Pentagon. Fifty-two other people were also aboard. The students, teacher and chaperones were heading to an educational field trip in the Channel Islands, Calif.

When the plane hit the Pentagon, Navy Information Systems Technician 1st Class Johnnie Doctor Jr. and Information Systems Technician 1st Class Marsha D. Ratchford lost their lives.

At the time, all three were residents in naval housing on the property now a part of Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling (JBAB).

“Even after ten years, the loss of the three members who lived on our base hurts. They were part of our community. We can’t and won’t forget them,” said Joseph P. Cirone, JBAB spokesman.

“While our military and civilian personnel have a long history of volunteer service as mentors for Leckie’s students and in helping our neighbors in the D.C. community in a variety of ways; because of 9/11, the bond between the school, the community and our base will remain forever,” he said.

During the observance of the attack’s tenth anniversary, an Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps Honor Guard from Howard University presented the American Flag as a vocalist from the Best Friends Foundation sang a spirited version of the National Anthem.

In a spiritual compassion-filled soft tone, Wilson High School’s Vocal Ensemble sang a customized rendition of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands,” interjecting the names of each of the fallen students’ and adults’ names.

Brown’s sister, Courtney, read the names of the fallen victims, while showing emotion. She was one of many people showing emotion as tears fell from some people’s eyes. Emphasizing the day of remembrance; time and again, the names were repeated by various speakers and recited by contingents of gathered students, representing the three schools that lost students on Flight 77.

Reflecting on that fateful day in 2001, Barry said, “It seemed surreal; but it was real. I said, ‘my God, my God.’” Councilmember Brown said before heading to the day’s remembrance, his 8-year old daughter asked him to tell the victims’ families, “that our family will continue to pray for them.”

Community leaders; school teachers and volunteer mentors; the families of the school-related victims, military and public safety representatives and clergy members were among the crowd that filled the school’s auditorium.

Clementine Homesley, the principal at Leckie ten years ago, told the audience, “9/11 – is a day that still stands ten years later and is etched in our minds and souls forever.”

Following the indoor ceremony, the crowd exited the building and walked to the memorial garden that honors Brown and Leckie teacher Hilda Taylor. There, family representatives, school and elected leaders took turns helping to plant the first of the trees that will memorialize each of the D.C. school-related victims of 9/11.

One onlooker remarked that the garden and tree planting were fitting because they represented life and that Brown was a student filled with life. “He had a zeal for coming to school to learn and really wanted to go on the trip to learn some more. He was full of life,” the unidentified woman said.

Doctor, 32, enlisted in the Navy at Fort Jackson, S.C. and served 14 years. He was married to wife, Andrea and had two stepchildren.

Ratchford, 34, a native of Mobile, Ala. and the mother of three children, served the country for 15 years and was married to Rodney Ratchford, who served as a machinist’s mate in the Navy.

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