BRADENTON -- Little Madison Miele was in the car with her mother nine years ago when "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" by country music artist Alan Jackson came on the radio.
The 6-year-old was smitten so strongly by the song her mother felt compelled to supply the background. The now-iconic tune was written after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and quickly became a post-9/11 American anthem. Introduced at the Country Music Association's annual awards show Nov. 7, 2001, it shot to the top of the U.S. Billboard country charts.
Three years later it was still getting regular radio play.
"Mom asked me if I knew what it was and she explained it to me," Madison said. "I remember getting really emotional."
Fast-forward to this year at Providence Community School for 15-year-old sophomore friends Katey Clendenon and Madison. Clendenon, daughter of John and Hyejung, and Madison, daughter of Jonathan and Shelley, said they were worried the devastating impact of the day the world stopped turning was being lost on their generation.
Katey said she learned about 9/11 from her mother about the same time her friend heard Jackson's patriotic and melancholy tune.
"She told me all the teachers were crying," Katey said.
Their present-day involvement in the Young America's Foundation gave Madison and Katey a passion for the 9/11 Never Forget Project and instilled a desire to make sure their community and fellow students never do lose awareness of that tragic day.
"We really wanted to show respect to everyone who died, and all the firemen and everybody who served, and their family and loved ones," Katey said. "The youth of America tend to overlook Sept. 11 and we want to bring it to their attention, the importance of remembering it."
Spurred by Madison and Katey, Providence Community School is establishing an American flag memorial on campus consisting of 2,977 America flags representing each person killed in the terrorist attacks. The flags will hereafter be displayed annually on the front lawn at 5512 26th St. W.
A campuswide moment of silence and prayer will be observed at 8:46 a.m. Tuesday commemorating the time the first plane, American Airlines Flight 11, crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Retired Fire Department of New York rescue specialist Garrett Lindgren will be the special guest of honor. He was one of the firefighters who responded to The World Trade Center disaster.
The tribute is being held a day early because Wednesday, the actual 9/11 anniversary, is a home-school day for Providence Community School students.
"We got approval from the school to do what we wanted and to make it as big as we could," Madison said. "It's going to be pretty big."
School administrators said they were impressed by the determination of the sophomore duo.
"The girls are amazing," said Kathy Davies, office/campus supervisor. "The two girls did a fundraiser for it (raising $500), collected money, emailed classmates and rallied classmates to join them have a flag-sticking party from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday."
Barry Batson, Providence Community School administrator, was at Booker Elementary the morning of 9/11 listening to President George W. Bush speak with students and educators as news of the attacks broke. The desperation of that dark day has receded in light of his young charges' drive to remember, he said.
"It is very heartwarming to see the youth of today, who are now growing up in a different America than we did because of 9/11, recognize the importance of our great nation remembering those citizens and true heroes that displayed so much courage on the day that terrorists killed and wounded so many Americans," said Batson.
The Cedar Hammock Fire Rescue, Manatee West Fire District, the Manatee Sheriff's Office and the Bradenton Police Department will attend along with members of U.S. armed forces, including the Marines and the Army.
At the conclusion of the moment of silence and prayer, guests and visitors will be invited into Peterson Hall on the campus of Providence Community School at Christ Church for refreshments.
"I am very excited," Katey said. "It's going to be amazing to see all the flags. Other kids in our school will be able to understand what 9/11 means when they see all the flags."
Terry O'Connor, Bradenton Herald night metro editor, can be reached at email@example.com or by calling 941-745-7040.