One day before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a school in southeast D.C. took time Friday morning to remember James Debeuneure, a well-liked fifth-grade teacher who was killed in the terrorist attacks.
“We were very close,” said his daughter Jalin Debeuneure. “There are still times that are rough — times when I wish that he was there.”
Debeuneure, a teacher at Ketcham Elementary School, was on American Airlines Flight 77 when it was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon.
The principal at Ketcham gathered with teachers and staff members Friday and presented Debeuneure’s daughter with a memorial plaque that read in part “we will not forget.”
“Twenty years later they are still remembering him as if he walked in these halls yesterday,” said Jalin Debeuneure. “That is a huge thing for me and my family and I’m so grateful for it.”
The school usually holds a ceremony every year around the 9/11 anniversary to remember Debeuneure as well as 11-year-old Ketcham student Rodney Dickens who had also been on the plane.
A memorial tree for the two was planted on the school’s front lawn a couple years ago.
“We decided on the 20-year anniversary we should give Mr. Debeuneure’s daughter something in remembrance of his service as a teacher at Ketcham,” said principal LaCondria Beckwith. “It’s for the effort and dedication that he had at the school.”
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Saturday’s anniversary falls less than two weeks after the end of the nearly two-decade-long U.S. war in Afghanistan. The war was launched weeks after the 9/11 attacks to retaliate against the al-Qaida plotters and the Taliban, who provided them safe haven.
President Joe Biden will visit all three 9/11 memorial sites to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks and pay his respects to the nearly 3,000 people killed that day.
Biden will visit ground zero in New York City, the Pentagon and the memorial outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Flight 93 was forced down.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.