Matthew Newell was playing on the St. Rocco School playground on the morning of Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001.
The carefree 9-year-old heard a teacher calling his name. The fourth-grader, wearing his school uniform, was summoned to the principal’s office.
The principal told him his father was there to pick him up early.
He was excited, but the day wouldn’t turn out the way he hoped. That beautiful, tragic late summer day didn’t turn out how any American had hoped.
Twenty years later, Newell, now nearly 30, stood at a podium outside the same school, on Atwood Avenue in Johnston.
On Friday morning, Sept. 10, his elementary alma mater held a “Prayer for Peace and Healing on the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.”
Newell kept his comments short. He thanked those who gathered outside the school to remember the victims of 9/11, a list of nearly 3,000 that included Matthew Newell’s mother.
Renee Lucille Newell was a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11.
An American Airlines employee, Renee Newell departed from Logan Airport in Boston, destined for Las Vegas, Nevada, for a planned work conference and short vacation.
The 37-year-old Cranston woman, a customer-service agent for American Airlines, was traveling with her friend Carol Bouchard, 43, of Warwick, an emergency-services secretary at Kent County Memorial Hospital.
Their plane was hijacked by terrorists and flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, igniting the attacks that changed America forever.
“Today we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack of 9/11, a tragic day that resulted in 2,977 deaths, tremendous grieving, and increased concern over the fragility of life,” St. Rocco School Principal Gina Hand told the crowd gathered outside the school.
The weather was almost exactly the same as that fateful day 20 years earlier. Warm sun. Cool breeze.
The audience at the ceremony stood in the shadow of the school. Students Adrian Perez and Alex Diaz Negron raised an American flag high above all those gathered. The banner flapped hard in the wind.
Rev. Angelo N. Carusi, pastor at St. Rocco’s, offered an opening prayer.
The children sang “God Bless America.”
Sister Mary Antoinette followed with another prayer.
“God of love we place in your loving arms the thousands of innocent lives that were lost on that unforgettable morning of Sept. 11, 2001,” she told the public gathered on the sidewalk, and the children standing in the shadow of the school. “We also remember the courage of the countless men and women who put their lives at risk in order to rescue, alleviate and bring solace to the afflicted. Help us to continue to work for a world free from every form of hatred, violence and ignorance. May terrorism — in all its forms — disappear from the face of the earth.”
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