New art, poetry contest aims to help students understand resilience of 9/11 first responders, survivors

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Every American remembers where they were September 11, 2001, a day that forever changed our nation.

"That was one of the first events in the 21st century that was an attack made on American soil and Americans really came together to support each other," said Kathryn Catania, Fresno County Deputy Superintendent of Schools.

History lessons are dedicated to the events of 9/11, but now many of the children learning about it weren't born.

The Office of the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools is partnering with the California 9/11 Memorial, to debut a new art and poetry contest to honor 9/11 first responders and survivors.

"Really a celebration of America and our freedoms and never forgetting what first responders and those that perished on 9/11 experienced," said Anna Borgeas, executive director of the California 9/11 Memorial.

The contest aimed at middle and high school students will ask contestants to reflect on how our country united as a result of the events on 9/11.

"Horrific traumatic things can happen, but there's resiliency and grit, and there's a way to get up and stop and move forward," said survivor Shari Tolbert.

Kicking off the event was Buchanan High School counselor and Fresno native Shari Tolbert, who lost her husband Lt. Commander Otis Tolbert during the attack on the Pentagon.

At the time they were living at the Pentagon with their three children ages nine, seven and 18 months.

Her youngest, like the students entering the contest, wasn't old enough to immediately process what happened.

"It's interesting to see how he processed and gathered that information and came to the full story on his own timeline," Tolbert said.

The contest is open to Fresno County students 7th to 12th grade.

Winners will receive either a medal, scholarships and the grand prize high school winner will earn a trip to New York to visit the 9/11 memorial.

Submissions will be on display at various events leading up to the California Memorial recognition ceremony.
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