GLENVILLE — The power of the images, of jet airliners exploding into skyscrapers, is undeniable.
The simple images and gestures have power, too.
So the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake girls’ volleyball team, none of whom were even born on Sept. 11, 2001, did their part on Friday afternoon, planting 250 little American flags in neat rows across the front lawn of the Church of the Immaculate Conception on Route 50.
The Spartans will host schools from all over the state for their annual fall tournament on Saturday, and because it actually falls on Sept. 11 this year, as it did 10 years ago, Patty Neumann, a parent in the school district, will again sing the national anthem to start the tournament.
Because the current high schoolers didn’t bear witness to the terrorist attacks themselves, head coach Gary Bynon said that having them make a public display with the flags can help the team appreciate the gravity of the events in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania 20 years ago.
“We, as adults, have to make sure that each generation is going to remember these things,” he said. “And it’s up to us. It’s up to us to remember the lives lost and the people that went down there. So many people.
“It’s so important to get kids involved, and we’re so proud of our kids and what they do. Things like this are so important to help them remember those people and how it affected our country.”
Christine Goss, Immaculate Conception’s director of evangelization and catechesis, came up with the idea for the flag display.
Her daughter, Soph, is a senior on the volleyball team, and it seemed like a natural way to employ their tight-knit group in a way that would commemorate the people who died in the attacks and the sacrifices made by first responders.
“We focus on it every year in our social studies class,” Soph Goss said. “I feel like we have a pretty good grasp, even though we weren’t alive during that time. But we definitely have a lot of respect for what happened and all the people that passed away and all the first responders.
“It was shocking. We watched a street view of it and then the news footage, and I think the contrast between what we saw in the news and what was first-hand perspective was crazy.”
“We’ve never experienced anything like that, but we can empathize with them,” senior Carlie Rzeszotarski said. “Last year in April, we watched a whole video of the planes hitting the tower and the newscasts of it. Our teacher told us we could leave the room if we wanted to, if it got too hard. But I think that showed everybody and put us in their shoes, so we can have empathy for them.”
Even before the team got all their flags in the ground, a few well-wishers honked their car horns as they drove by on Route 50.
The Spartans learned that even small gestures can have an impact.
“It’s important to remember it every year to stay respectful for those we lost,” Rzeszotarski said.
“I remember North Rockland coming up here [for the tournament in 2001] and saying, ‘Yeah, it’s still smoking, when we left,'” Bynon said. “I remember Warwick coming and saying, ‘We have six kids and our whole town is firemen.’ The six kids wanted to come up and play.
“The Oneonta coach emailed me yesterday and said ‘Thank you so much for doing it, for doing the national anthem.
“His father was FDNY, and he remembers waiting 24 hours before he heard from him.”
Reach Sportswriter Mike MacAdam at 518-395-3146 or [email protected]