Horizon high school students

Horizon high school students, from left, Alex Leiferman, Keonna Sturkey and Rhia Pennell worked with the massive 2,998-piece chain that they will show outside the school this coming Friday.

Marti Eldean had always wondered why her grandparents reminded her so often about the attacks on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. 

She never fully grasped what made them so upset about seeing an attack on U.S. soil that took so many lives. 

That all changed on Sept. 11, 2001. 

While watching the horrific events unfold at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and aboard flight 93, Eldean said, “I understood why they didn’t want us to forget.”

Eldean came up with an idea to commemorate those who lost their lives 20 years ago – and show students why they needed to remember them. She had her students create chains out of red, white and blue paper with the name of a victim that fateful day.

Nearly 15 years later and in her first year as an English teacher at Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Eldean has kept her “all names matter” project alive and are to unveil the finished product  Friday, Nov. 10. 

“I just wanted this to be for the victims, which is why I called it the ‘All Names Matter Initiative,’” she said. 

For the past month, students Fridays working on the project. Some students wrote the names of the deceased, others cut paper and stapled the chain together. 

The chain is the main focal point of the project and is accompanied by signs made by the students that say “2,998 names are written on our chain” and “where were you when the world stopped turning?” 

“We talked about what goes on at the World Trade Center, why those buildings were attacked and how that had an impact on the world,” Eldean said. 

Students were also shown the award-winning documentary “9/11,” which initially began as a documentary detailing the lives of rookie firemen and quickly turned into one of the most exclusive documentaries of the attacks on the World Trade Center. “They get to watch that whole process and get to know the firemen,” Eldean said. 

The most harrowing image of that day for the students was the number of people who jumped to their deaths at the World Trade Center. More than 200 people jumped and the velocity of their plummet was not sufficient to cause death as they fell, meaning they were alive until impact, experts say.

“The most shocking thing to me is that people decided to jump from those buildings instead of trying to survive because it is so terrifying and so heartbreaking for them,” junior Alex Leiferman said. 

Teaching these students about an that occurred a few years before they were born reminded Eldean of herself when she was growing up. 

“These students are now just like I was with Pearl Harbor,” she said. “They had no clue, and it was so in the past for them, but I always hope that by showing the documentary and making the chain that it lets them know how important that day is.” 

For many students, the magnitude of the lives lost that day is not felt until the chain nears its completion. 

“When they see the finished product all put together and see how lengthy it is, I think that’s what hits them the most,” Eldean said. 

This was especially true for one student. 

“Just seeing all the names on all the paper, it truly is a lot of people,” said Jackson Taylor, a junior. “Even though we weren’t alive at that time, our families have been impacted and that impacts us a lot. It really shows you how much it means to a lot of people.” 

Eldean said, “I hope that people take away that this is a major event where lots of lives were lost and should be respected.”

She also reminds her students of how so many volunteers and others rose to the occasion that day and in weeks afterward, helping with the recovery.

She wishes that unified and unifying spirit would have continued.

“Something that I tell the kids is that for a good year after 9/11, we all loved each other,” she said. “Everybody was kind and I wish we could have kept that feeling instead of where we now fight over everything.”