Jodi Barnes took the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks as an opportunity to teach her Wilson Elementary second-graders about patriotism.

“We don’t go too in depth because it would scare them, but I want them to be aware of it and proud to be an American,” Barnes said. “I want them to know there are people out there who protect our freedom. To me, patriotism is very important.”

She gave the children an overview of what happened, and they watched an age-appropriate video about the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

“It was sad because a lot of people died,” Devan Gibson said. “There was a lot of heroes, but a lot of them died, too.”

They paid tribute to those lost 12 years ago during their daily morning routine, which begins with the Pledge of Allegiance.

“We saluted the flag for all the people who died on 9/11, because this is the same day that it happened,” Dillon Sullivan said.

They also sang “Proud to be an American” in honor of those who died on Sept. 11.

“It’s the best song because it talks about the people who died and stood up for us,” Ava Nance said.

Then they discussed what it means to live in a free country.

“We’re thanking soldiers for sacrificing their lives for us,” Braxton Lee said.

Barnes also read the book “Don’t Forget, God Bless Our Troops” to the class. The book was written by Dr. Jill Biden, wife of the vice president, about her son’s deployment to Iraq from the perspective of her granddaughter Natalie.

“It’s sad, because her dad was gone for a long time. He had to go fight for his family and everybody’s family,” Makayla Cantrell said.

Students easily identified with Natalie’s story.

“Her dad was fighting for freedom. I’m happy because he fought for freedom,” Kendall Sloan said.

At Christmas, Natalie made cookies for her dad.

“She was happy to make Christmas cookies, but sad she had to mail them because her dad was gone,” Emily Casteel said.

When Natalie lost her first tooth, she kept it in until Dad was available by Skype.

“It was happy, because she got to see him,” Mary Anna Bates said.

Upon her dad’s return, the girl colored a U.S. flag picture.

“It’s a flag because he’s helping people and fighting for people,” Zea White said.

Then the book ended on a happy note, with her father finally arriving back home, just as the children hope for every soldier.

“She was happy she saw her dad because he came home,” Wesley Perryman said.