On this day, we remember six members of the DCPS family we lost 20 years ago: students Asia Cottom, Bernard Brown, and Rodney Dickens, and teachers Hilda Taylor, James Debeuneure, and Sarah Clark.
They were chosen to participate in a trip to study ecology in California beside National Geographic Society researchers. On September 11, 2001, less than 35 minutes into the trip, their flight was hijacked. At 9:37 a.m., the plane crashed into the Pentagon. All passengers on board were killed, and 125 Pentagon employees lost their lives.
Asia was a new student at Backus Middle School. Her father worked at the school as a coach and a classroom aide. Teachers remembered Asia as kindhearted and eager to help her classmates.
Bernard was the type of student who kept teachers on their toes at Leckie Elementary School. Bernard’s teachers agreed that he was showing real progress, and that was one of the reasons why he was recommended to participate in the trip. He loved basketball and wanted to play professionally one day.
Rodney always made the honor roll at Ketcham Elementary School. His mother expected him to be a role model for his two younger brothers, as his two older sisters had been for him. His favorite activity was watching professional wrestling—no matter what he was doing, “…he made it home to see wrestling,” his aunt remembered.
Asia, Bernard, and Rodney were each 11 years old.
Hilda Taylor was a veteran teacher at Leckie Elementary School, teaching 6th grade. Originally from Sierra Leone, she immigrated to the United States to create a better life for her family. Ms. Taylor was a mother and a grandmother.
James Debeuneure returned to the classroom as a second career. He was a 5th grade teacher at Ketcham Elementary School. He was known for arriving early and leaving late. Mr. Debeuneure was a father of three.
Sarah Clark began teaching in DCPS in 1965 and worked as a 6th grade teacher at Backus Middle School. She was engaged to be married. Ms. Clark was a mother of two.
Asia, Bernard, Rodney, Hilda, James, and Sarah are forever in our hearts. Our deepest sympathies remain with their families.