A middle school choir was on a field trip to New York City, and they were visiting the National September 11 Memorial & Museum. They broke out into song and starting a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Little did they know that security was prepared to, and ultimately did, break up their performance.
“Basically they performed approximately half of the national anthem, and they were told by security to cease and desist. And they, of course, complied immediately,” Waynesville Middle School principal Trevor Putnam told WLOS-TV of Asheville, N.C. “I hate that our kids didn’t get to finish. They have angelic voices and I love to hear them sing.”
Now, we’re all adults here. At least, I think we are. You might remember my thoughts on the national anthem and why I’m proud to display my patriotism and support for this country. I’m not afraid to say and I’m not ashamed to sing that song and what it represents.
That being said, I’m all for these kids receiving perhaps a field trip of a lifetime in visiting the now-iconic exhibit of that fateful day in 2001. I’m all for them being able to somewhat take in the effect those horrible attacks had on our country. I’m completely in favor of them being able to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” whenever they feel necessary.
Now, in a moment of contrast, there is one argument I’ll make in favor of the security guard. He shouldn’t be reprimanded or excoriated or vilified one iota. He was doing his job, mainly because the 9/11 Memorial & Museum is not the only place where security guards have to restrict certain actions.
Think of the Museum of Tolerance up in the Los Angeles area. There’s a place where racism and injustice all across human history are exhibited, but the strong, focal point is about the Holocaust. There might be rules to where you’re supposed to keep your noises at a minimum or “use your inside voices.” There are likely some quieter areas throughout the museum. Administrators, volunteers, employees, etc., probably want you to experience it in a way where, say, “less is more.”
I bring this up because, much like visiting Pearl Harbor, guides and guards are instructed to tell visitors to not disrespect the grounds in any way. Speaking from personal experience, my fiancee and I had to keep relatively quiet on the boat ride over to the memorial as well as inside the memorial itself. As an adult, I say this had a much more profound impact on me than it might have on 11-, 12-, and 13-year-old kids.
For what it’s worth, if you’re a teacher, ask the staff prior to arriving to a museum like the 9/11 memorial what is allowed and what’s not. This could ensure a better experience for the staff involved on site, as well as for the children. If you’re a security guard, I’m not upset with you. I may have reacted harshly at first, but that’s because I judged a book by its cover without reading it first.