Far-away message

Published 11:00 pm Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kindergarten students at Pike Liberal Arts School received a balloon that was launched in Batesville, Miss., in honor of 9/11. The students plan to respond with letters to the students in Batesville. (Photo/Wendy Ward)

Mississippi balloon brings greetings

This is a great big world we live in and many things happen by chance.

And it was by chance that a yellow balloon fell from the sky Wednesday morning in Muriel Saunders’ yard rather than in the nearby woodlands to perhaps never been seen.

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“I came home from a workout and noticed something brown and yellow in the yard,” Saunders said. “It looked like a ball but, when I got closer, I saw it was a balloon with a tag attached that said if found to respond to Batesville Elementary School in Batesville, Mississippi and, on the back, it had ‘Remembering 9/11’ and the name Elizabeth, 9.

“When I read the tag, I got so excited that the balloon had traveled all the way from Mississippi and that young children were learning about 9/11.”

Saunders’ grandchildren are students at Pike Liberal Art School so the took the balloon and card there. She asked Ceil Sikes, Pike Liberal Arts School headmaster, if the kindergarten teachers would be interested in them.

Sikes said that she talked with the kindergarten teachers, Stacy Black and Lea Sunday, and they were excited for the children to have the opportunity to learn more about the events of 9/11 and to connect with children from another state.

“As a class, the kindergarten students are writing a letter to the students at Batesville Elementary School to let them know the balloon and card were found,” Sikes said. “They are learning more about 9/11 and what it means and why it’s important to honor and remember those who lost their lives on that day.”

Sikes said the students are amazed, as is she, that a balloon could travel so far.

“This is a teaching opportunity for our teachers and a learning experience for our students,” she said. “It has been a fun experience and it’s been a big deal for our kindergarten students. They are very excited.”

Diane Heafner, secretary of Batesville Elementary School, said that 760 balloons were released on Tuesday morning, Sept. 13, in remembrance of those who lost their lives during the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

“All of our students went out on the playground at 10 o’clock and the high school JROT presented the flags and we had a speaker who talked to our students about 9/11,” Heafner said.

“Those attacks had such a devastating effect on our country and will continue to have for the rest of our lives. The events of 9/11 are a part of our history and it is important for our children to know about them.”

To conclude the school’s 9/11 program, all 760 preschoolers and first graders released yellow balloons “Remembering 9/11.”

“The balloon release was our way of remembering those who lost their lives on 9/11 and to let their families know that we have not forgotten them and care about them,” Heafner said.

The teachers at Batesville Elementary School are using the balloon release to teach the students about history and geography.

“So far, we have received calls from four places – Calhoun City and Water Valley, Mississippi; Cottondale, Florida and Troy, Alabama,” Heafner said.

“Cottondale is 450 miles from here and Troy is 350.

“We are pinpointing the locations on the map as we hear about them. We hope the balloons make it to many different places. This is a good learning experience for our children and they are having a lot of fun with it.”