E.O. Smith High School: Widening The Full Circle

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Last year, I wrote about Tim Bowen, a teacher from E.O. Smith High School, who reached out to me via my Facebook page, to share how he had been using Rebirth in his class to give his students a personal connection to September 11th. It was a full circle moment for me, because when I signed on to do the film it was because by sharing Sergio’s story, I wanted people to get past the numbers of the day and connect to the victims. His letter affirmed that I had fulfilled that intention, and to thank him, I sent him Sergio’s Tribute Book to share with his class when he was doing his September 11th lesson plan.

Shortly after, I received a beautiful thank you card from him and just after Christmas, he sent a DVD of the project his Contemporary Issues class did called “Never Forget”. Each student had to choose a victim from September 11th and do a presentation on his/her life. For the DVD the students held up posters of the victim they chose and said a sentence about them to the camera, which was incredibly moving and touched me very deeply, knowing they had taken the time to get to know the victims they had chosen to put a human face to the historical tragedy. After several shots of the classroom, where posters and pictures of the victims including Sergio hung, Tim Bowen spoke directly to me to thank me again for Sergio’s Tribute Book. He proceeded to tell me what a full circle moment it was for him to connect with me, after seeing Sergio’s poster hanging at Ground Zero in 2003, and to connect me to that poster after seeing me in Rebirth. In those moments of watching the DVD, I felt the true meaning behind my calling to get Sergio’s story out there from the beginning, and I was given the gift of being able to fully connect all of the dots along the thirteen-plus years since.

Needless to say I was a puddle of cathartic tears, and I knew that I wanted to somehow thank Tim, for being that teacher- the one who bends over backward to help his students forge connections so they can integrate the lessons being taught to them, the one who is helping to ensure this new generation will never forget. And with the success of my first Skype talk with Schreiner University under my belt, I felt confident enough to offer a Skype talk to Tim and his class which he enthusiastically accepted. Serendipitously, fellow Rebirth participant Tim Brown, was in Miami and he joined me in talking to Tim and the class about more of what we went through in the early aftermath, the lessons we learned, and what helped us to recover. Here is the initial feedback from Tim Bowen and one of his students- we are so very grateful we had the opportunity to make a difference:

“I can’t say thank you enough to you and Tim for today. We are very very lucky to have had this opportunity. It was very cool and a nice surprise to have met Tim, I feel this connection with him somehow maybe cause he is a Connecticut boy, and looking forward to connecting with him in NY.

It was my best day of teaching since the day I walked through my classroom door 15 years ago on my first day…..I mean that straight from my heart……a truly remarkable day where the kids learned real life lessons from both of you. God Bless you!

Best to you and Tim!”

–Tim Bowen, Teacher

“I was in that class and I wanted to personally thank you and Tim for talking to us! Actually talking to you both in real time touched a personal note for many of us. I was in the back of the room, filming and trying not to cry when you told your story to us. You are both absolutely incredible and strong people. Thank you both again SOO much. I speak for the whole class when I say we couldn’t have been more blessed and lucky to have had this opportunity to have the Skype chat!”

-Hannah, Student

It was awesome for both of us to talk to the class, and we are happily pursuing an initiative now with Project Rebirth to bring the film and our experiences to more schools in the future- stay tuned… 🙂

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