Sep. 8—LA GRANDE — Four Union County students, who were not alive on Sept. 11, 2001, are helping keep memories alive of the men and women who died during the 9/11 al-Qaeda terrorist attacks.
La Grande High School sophomore Spencer Harsin, Imbler High School senior Elexis Clark and IHS eighth graders Elijah Clark and Joseph Kratochvil have installed a 9/11 poster exhibit in the showcase windows of the former JCPenney store at 1309 Adams Ave., La Grande. The students installed the exhibit, which they helped raise funds for, as part of a service project for the Union County MyPI (Preparedness Initiative) 4-H Club.
"This is very relevant. This group of kids opened their hearts and showed a sense of civic duty," said Robin Gerber, the lead instructor of the Union County MyPI 4-H Club.
The photos for the "Sept. 11, 2001: The Day That Changed the World" educational exhibit were provided by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. The museum also sent PDFs for the display's text, which the 4-H club members printed and then mounted on poster boards.
The authors of passages on the posters explore the consequences of terrorism on individuals and communities at local, national and international levels and salute people who responded in heroic fashion to the 9/11 attacks.
The stories of people like Pia Hofmann are told. Hofmann was among those who helped recover the remains of the victims of the terrorist attacks. After recovering the remains of a civilian, she insisted the victim receive the same respect as the uniformed police and firefighters who also died.
"From that day on, when civilian remains were found, a member of the clergy was summoned, an honor guard formed and the remains were draped with an American flag while carried off the site," a story on one poster board states.
Another hero saluted is Isaac Ho'opi'i, who was driving past the Pentagon building when a jet hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists crashed into the structure. Ho'opi'i then proceeded to carry at least eight people out of the smoke-filled Pentagon building.
Ten of the heroes saluted are unnamed. They are the 10 people who took turns carrying a wheelchair-bound co-worker down 69 floors and out of the burning World Trade Center's North Tower building, in New York City, which had been struck by terrorists.
Behind the exhibit hangs a 5-by-9-foot military burial flag of a veteran. It takes on a more prominent look at night when a timer light illuminates the showcase window display. The light comes on automatically each day at 3 p.m. and goes out at 4 a.m., Gerber said.
The exhibit, installed last weekend, will remain up throughout September. The building the exhibit is in is now named the Masonic Lodge Annex. The building has been owned by the La Grande Masonic Lodge for about nine decades. JCPenney operated a store in the building from 1930 to 2017, when the store was closed as part of a national downsizing of the department store chain.
Organizations that assisted the Union County MyPI 4-H Club with its service project include the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, ShelterBox USA, Rotary International and La Grande Masonic Lodge 41, which is providing space for the exhibit for no charge.
Dick Mason is a reporter with The Observer primarily covering the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.