By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Chip Spencer runs or walks most every day.
On Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attack, he decided to run with the red, white and blue in observance of Patriot Day.
“I think you are part of the solution or part of the problem,’’ said Spencer, of Joplin. “I want to be part of the solution. This day reminds me that we live in a free country where you can still express yourself.’’
As Spencer was running west on West 32nd Street, he encountered Buffy Pardun, who was walking to the McDonald’s restaurant at 32nd Street and McClelland Boulevard, where she works.
“I thought he was out getting his exercise and then I saw the flag and thought about Sept. 11,’’ she said. “That made me think about whether we were flying our flag at half-mast. I can see from here that we are not. I need to tell them about that.’’
After she arrived at work, the restaurant lowered its flag to half-staff.
Flags across the city were lowered Tuesday in observance of Patriot Day. Middle school students prepared “goody bags’’ for soldiers overseas, and college students worked on a Habitat for Humanity house at 2507 Picher Ave.
For Spencer, it was a moment to put a smile on someone’s face.
“I have had 50 people at least wave or honk at me today while I was running,’’ said Spencer. “What was it that Emerson said? ‘If you can make one person breathe easier then you can call that day a success.’ Maybe I helped some people to breathe easier today.’’
At East Middle School, students in Amanda Mehrens’s sixth-grade class decorated lunch sacks that will be filled with snacks for members of the military and first responders. They also wrote notes to the soldiers.
Mehrens said, “They are learning about letter writing now. This will be an opportunity for them to write a letter — to get more practice — and to write to a professional person as opposed to their friend.’’
She said some of the notes have been touching.
“One of them wrote: ‘Thank you for giving up time with your family.’ They understand the sacrifice that is being made,’’ she said.
Gavin Briddle, 12, decorated his bag with the flag and fireworks. He wrote: “Thank you for protecting us.’’
Isaiah Kilmete, 12, transformed his bag into a hand puppet that looked like a soldier. He wrote: “You guys are there to protect us. Some day I’m going to be like you guys! You are also there to be a roll model, so I want you to show them who’s the boss! And show them that you, me, and all of us ARE the USA.’’
Stran Johnston, 11, wrote that his “grandfather fought in the Korean War. He was a prisoner of war. He survived the war but died of a heart attack when he was a about 80 years old. That’s why I appreciate the troops.’’
Mehrens, a first-year teacher, said she was in the seventh grade and in class when she learned about the Sept. 11 attack. She said the students in her class were about a year old when the attack took place.
The Resource Development Center at Missouri Southern State University received a $100,000 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to stage the local community-service projects and to send a group of volunteers to flood-damaged Minot, N.D., last week.
Sandy Lovett, with the Resource Development Center, said this week’s community-service projects are to work with Joplin Area Habitat for Humanity; with a group from the historic Murphysburg district to help restore the Handy Chapel AME Church on West Fourth Street; and with “Operation Goody Bag.’’