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Why do they call it that? Freedom High School and Liberty Middle School: Schools stand for American values after 9/11 attacks

11:32 AM, Sep 25, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida -- When America was down and reeling from the September 11th attacks, two schools became reminders of what this country's all about.

Why do they call them Freedom High School and Liberty Middle School?

In 2001, as the walls of these two schools in New Tampa were rising, our nation's sense of security was falling apart.

Terror attacks brought down the Twin Towers.

They smashed a hole in the Pentagon.

A fourth airplane-turned-weapon crashed after courageous passengers fought back against their hijackers.

In the stinging, scary aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, education leaders met with folks in this community to pick names for these two under-construction schools.

"Older schools typically have names that are either geographical in nature... or citizens who have contributed significantly to education in Hillsborough County," said Freedom High School Principal David Sheppard.

But Sheppard says at the time, almost nothing felt "normal" anymore. Normal names wouldn't do, either.

"It was suggested by a parent in the community [to have] a patriotic theme for the schools," as well as specific names based on core American values, Sheppard said.

For the high school, Freedom. For the middle school next door, Liberty.

"The mascots followed, with Liberty having the Eagles and Freedom having the Patriots. In light of what was happening in our nation at that time, it was hard to decide on anything else, other than Freedom and Liberty," Sheppard said.

The schools opened in 2002, just weeks before the first anniversary of that nightmarish day. The two schools share a cafeteria, and their leaders share a vision.

The principals of the two school have come up with a patriotic plan. They want to fill a whole wall of the cafeteria -- all 180 feet of it -- with a brand new, American-themed mural.

"We wanted to add something thematic to our school. This red, white, and blue flag -- with the Pledge of Allegiance across it -- and, at the end, possibly have some of the twin towers of light coming up," Sheppard said.

"The students that come through here today, many of them may not remember those events because they were so small."

But each year, on the 11th of September, these students gather together for a solemn ceremony. And it's in that quiet crowd that Sheppard says he knows -- they "get it."

"They understand what it's about. And it's a neat thing to see when there's that many of them taking time out of their day for a brief moment to remember," Sheppard said.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

A firefighter who responded to the Pentagon will speak at Freedom High on Friday. He's a part of the Never Forget Foundation.

He'll be talking to students who are considering military careers about the importance of "answering the call" when a crucial moment comes.

We feature new "Why do they call it that?" stories each Wednesday on 10 News starting at 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Check out previous editions of the Emmy-nominated series at our "Why do they call it that?" website: wtsp.com/callitthat.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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