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Outrage, Understanding as CCHS Officials Apologize for 9/11 Remembrance

A week ago, Concord-Carlisle High School read a Muslim poem but not the Pledge of Allegiance on the 12th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. On Tuesday night, school officials faced the public for the first time.

Superintendent of Schools Diana Rigby offered a public apology about the way CCHS handled its 9/11 commemoration.
Superintendent of Schools Diana Rigby offered a public apology about the way CCHS handled its 9/11 commemoration.

The auditorium at Concord-Carlisle High School was uncomfortable Tuesday evening, as community members gathered to hear school officials apologize publicly for the handling of 9/11’s 12th anniversary last week at CCHS

A few dozen residents of Concord, Carlslie and at least one surrounding town listened as CCHS Principal Peter Badalament and Superintendent Diana Rigby read prepared remarks, and then several audience members pitched in with two cents of their own.

Over the past week, members of the local and national communities have criticized the way CCHS began the school day last Wednesday by reading the poem "My Grandmother Washes Her Feet in the Sink of the Bathroom at Sears" and omitting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Reading the poem was a conscious decision meant to promote cross-cultural understanding, according to school officials. That the daily Pledge of Allegiance was not said that morning was due to the administration’s failure to realize the student who typically leads the pledge was out at his internship that morning.

Speaking in the CCHS auditorium on Sept. 17 was first public apology from Rigby, who opened by apologizing for “the poor judgment shown by Principal Badalament and his administrative team.” It was the third from Badalament, who almost exactly stuck to the script of his second apology, the one posted to the district’s website on Sunday, Sept. 15.

Watch the videos above to hear the remarks from Badalament and Rigby. 

There wasn’t much new information revealed during the question-and-answer/comments period following the apologies. However, one new piece came up when Badalament revealed an assistant principal picked the poem and that he read it before it was recited on Sept. 11, but did not brief the school staff.

“We typically do sound things off each other,” Badalament said, calling the lack of advanced notice about the poem on of the “biggest mistakes.”

One hundred or so community members attended the forum, and opinions were split fairly evenly -- among those who spoke anyway. 

Some were outraged by the 9/11 commemoration, some by the omission of the Pledge of Allegiance, and some by the administration’s response. A few even called for Badalament to resign, or at least for some form of discipline by the School Committee.

“There have to be consequences for bad judgment,” said Jay Rush, the parent of a CCHS senior and a recent graduate. “I don’t consider this forum that consequence.”

Some among the angry used animated language and made colorful comparisons. Like equating the reading of a poem by a Muslim on the anniversary of 9/11 to a love song a funeral, or to a poem about the struggles of a White Supremacist on MLK Day.

“You wouldn’t read Japanese poetry on Pearl Harbor Day,” said Mike Farquhar, an Acton resident. “Why in the heck would you read a Muslim poem on 9/11 in Concord, a mile-and-a-half from the North Bridge?”

But as many who spoke were ready to accept the apology, with some of them saying the poem had a worthwhile message even if it lacked the proper context in light of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

One father said he was surprised to have a conversation about something positive that happened during the school day with his daughter, when she came home and told him about the poem. Another parent said her daughters were deeply moved by the poem, which they understood to be about tolerance.

 CCHS Senior Vineet Chandra, the moderator for the student senate, said his classmates understand that the 9/11 commemoration was done incorrectly, but they are now ready to move on as students.

“We want to just move on and we want this to end,” said Chandra. “I ask all of you tonight to let us go on with our education. … When we come back here, we have quizzes and tests everyday. We don’t have time for this anymore.”

A few of the speakers also called for more emphasis to be put on daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. And some suggested political correctness and progressive thinking could be compromising patriotism in Concord. 

“The kumbaya mentality is nice," said Tim Reardon. "But Dec. 7 we hold sacred in America. In Concord, we hold April 19. These are remembrance days.”

Reardon was one of a handful of speakers to mention knowing Al Filipov, a Concord resident who was killed Sept. 11, 2001 when his plane crashed into one of the towers at the World Trade Center. 

Another speaker, in considering alternative ways to commemorate 9/11, noted the upcoming Al Filipov Peace and Justice Forum, an annual event started by Filipov's wife, Loretta, as a way to honor her husband's memory. 

This year’s forum will be held at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 21, and will honor Arizona journalist Margaret Regan as its speaker and recipient of the 2013 Al Filipov Peace & Justice award. Regan is being honored for her work reporting on the deaths of migrants along the US-Mexico border, including her 2010 book, “The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands.”

Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 12:59 PM
I fail to see how a protest over the contest is such a big deal. Mountains out of molehills, apparently.
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 01:01 PM
Rational conservative thought: blame an entire religion for the actions of nineteen men. No wonder your party can't get anything done.
Prometheus September 27, 2013 at 01:05 PM
See you in the real world.
Prometheus September 27, 2013 at 01:32 PM
Now I see where you got your morals. Have you been to the Dr. lately.....mental issues run in families you know. http://medford.patch.com/groups/police-and-fire/p/levy-sentencing
Dan D. September 27, 2013 at 01:54 PM
Aron: 19??? Really??? Read this: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/world/africa/somalia-al-shabaab-explainer/index.html.
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Dan, I'm very familiar with Al Shabaab. Been studying them for years. I was referring to the nineteen hijackers on the eleventh of September.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 05:44 PM
Why study them for years, if you only intend to offer an apology on their behalf? It cuts into your time at hovering over the Patch.
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 05:57 PM
When have I ever 'apologized' on anyone's behalf? Much less Al Shabaab's? Their actions are beyond deplorable, but I think you and your ilk are fools for using the actions of terrorists and madmen to judge an entire religion. It seems rather Hitlerian.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Aron, Aron... me-boy. Aren't you aware of Godwin's Law? Your confirmation of the law is not flattering.
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 06:17 PM
Mike Godwin is a friend of mine. I stand by what I said: your actions are fascistic. And again, please show me where I have apologized for Shabaab, Qaeda, or ANYONE.
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 06:18 PM
Pardon, that should have read, 'your views vis a vis Muslims are eerily similar to those of Adolf Hitler.' And if you aren't 'Reverend Pimpington' in yet another sock puppet, I will be heartily surprised.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 06:19 PM
If Godwin was a friend, you should have been even more careful in your comparisons.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 06:24 PM
More-or-less related to this discussion, a new bumper sticker was just seen in town: Does Your Obama Bumper Sticker Make You Feel Stupid Yet?
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 06:27 PM
Answer my question, please. Stop deflecting.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 06:31 PM
Reverend Who?
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 06:50 PM
Your silence is deafening.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 08:42 PM
Talk about silence. Just read Prometheus' post. Time to go visit you Father. When does he get out?
Aron Levy September 27, 2013 at 08:45 PM
My father's actions have no bearing on this discussion, you swine. The fact that you refuse to answer shows that your accusation was false.
Tara Dactyl September 27, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Kosher swine, or just ordinary swine? Muslims will not touch either.
Iron Mike September 29, 2013 at 08:19 AM
BREAKING! Sun 29 Sep -Yet another Muslim terror attack in Northern Nigeria by the Boko Haram at the Yobe State College of Agriculture. The 'Religion of Peace' [that we shouldn't judge] shot students sleeping in their dorms – may have killed upwards of 42.
Tara Dactyl September 29, 2013 at 03:03 PM
The Religion of Peace brings unwelcome and undeserved peace to dozens of innocent students. Allau Akbar!
Iron Mike September 29, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I'm just SURE all the really peaceful Muslims will be out protesting this carnage,...I'm SURE they will. We know our local Muslim apologist will be scolding us for painting them all the same - with the same broad brush.
Aron Levy September 29, 2013 at 07:32 PM
Alright, I have a serious question for you gents: Would you agree that threatening the economy, such as blowing up the World Trade Center, with effectively nobody inside (yes, thousands were killed. But that was a tiny percentage of the people who would be killed if it had been bombed in the middle of the day) would be a terror tactic?
Tara Dactyl September 29, 2013 at 09:07 PM
Huh, that is a serious question? We can only guess how far afield this will take us from the issue of a 'poem' about a Muslim grandma washing her feet being read, in lieu of the Pledge of Allegiance on September Eleventh at Concord Carlisle High School. Not worth our time, Aron. Plus consider yourself well apologized to the Muslim community. No additional effort is needed, and no other religious group requires sad attempts at degradation by empty comparison.
Patrick Ball (Editor) September 29, 2013 at 09:14 PM
Hey, Tara, serious question: Since when have you cared how far afield a comment takes you from the story on which you're commenting? On that subject: Guys, you -- and by that I mean ALL OF YOU -- have gotten way off topic. Bring the conversation back to CCHS or knock it off. This article's comments section isn't the place to discuss Iron Mike's real name, Aron's academic papers or Tara Dactyl's thought's on Nigeria. Start a blog, argue IRL over coffee or save it for another story. I think we can all agree this one has gone way off the rails. -pb
Patriot5 September 29, 2013 at 11:06 PM
Really Patrick? Now you try to bring back on topic? Aron Levy has been off topic with evey comment. As a reporter why not investigate why CCHS still has NOT observed a moment of silence for 9/11? On topic!
Aron Levy September 29, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Hey Pat, I was on topic until circumstance forced me off. When folks were attempting to destroy my character by bringing up my dad's actions, where were you? Was that on-topic? Or was that the very worst kind of ad hominem argument?
Patrick Ball (Editor) September 29, 2013 at 11:13 PM
You've all been off topic. This has nothing to do with Aron, or Tara, or Mike or anyone else. This bridge has been big enough for all of you. As an anonymous commenter, why not scope out our Terms of Use: http://concord.patch.com/terms. I might just enforce them next time.
Aron Levy September 29, 2013 at 11:13 PM
And by Pat, I mean Patriot. Not Patrick.
Patriot5 September 29, 2013 at 11:29 PM
On topic. Will the Concord Journal investigate why nothing has been done to observe 9/11? They have had the Pledge every day since, but they have not observed a moment of silence to this point. A very hollow apology at best. Signed David Dalton CCHS class of 1976.

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