On December 7, 2016, a cross-generational group of people gathered at the Niles Senior Center on the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in World War II. Veterans from that conflict as well as the Korean, Vietnam and Gulf wars joined with family members and students from Culver School to commemorate the historic event.
For many, the highlight of the ceremony was the program by 119 Culver 4th and 5th graders.
“The students and teachers should be commended for all that they did,” said Tom Davidson of Niles Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3579. “The veterans loved seeing and talking with the kids and were amazed with the amount of effort that had to have gone into the program.”
“Many in the audience were moved to tears,” said Culver choral director Christine Dworak, who directed the students during songs. “The students, teachers and administrators were humbled by the compliments we received from the enthusiastic audience following our program. One memorable moment was when a gentleman told me that ‘our country is in good hands.’”
Members of the Niles VFW organized the event together with Morton Grove American Legion Post 135 and Niles Senior Center staff. It featured a color guard, presentation of a memorial wreath and “Taps” played by a post bugler. Niles Mayor Andrew Przybylo and Navy Command Master Chief Matthew Laing from the Great Lakes Naval Training Center delivered remarks. The master of ceremonies was Niles Village Manager and VFW Junior Vice Commander Steve Vinezeano.
After a welcome from 4th grader Vanesa Cani, the students delivered choral renditions of songs they had practiced at school: “A Song of Peace,” “Because of You,” a medley of military songs, “One Light, One Sun,” “When the Flag Goes By,” “This Is My Country” and “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Individual students introduced the songs and read thank-you letters they had written to veterans. A group of eight students recited “I am the Flag” by Ruth Apperson Rous from memory. Twelve 5th graders presented a skit called “Pearl Harbor by the Numbers,” which described the events that took place in Hawaii on December 7, 1941.
“I think the students have grown tremendously in their knowledge of the history of Pearl Harbor, their musical repertoire of military songs and songs of peace, public speaking and delivery, citizenship, and a deep appreciation of the sacrifices of those who served our country in the past and continue to serve now,” Dworak said. “I see and feel a sense of accomplishment and pride from our students.”
Dworak added, “This performance was a powerful and humbling experience and I felt extremely proud of our students. It was gratifying for all of us on stage to share our gifts with veterans and to see that the performance was a positive and moving experience. It was our small but meaningful way to thank them for their tremendous sacrifice and service.”
Photo copyright © by Marina Samovsky Photography.