BYFIELD — Students in the Triton Regional School District turned the somber anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks into a positive day of service and gratitude Wednesday.

The district serves as a Youth Service America lead agency that encourages young people to lead volunteer service projects during a trio of National Days of Service on Martin Luther King Day in January, Global Youth Service Day in April and the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance.

Salisbury, Newbury and Pine Grove Elementary School students collected items for military veterans and active duty service members Wednesday, while their counterparts at Triton Regional Middle and High schools observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m.

“You could hear a pin drop,” middle school Principal Alan MacRae said. “The kids really took it seriously. I walked around and could see all of the kids writing and they were all very interested.”

MacRae added that some of his teachers were sharing their experiences on 9/11 with their students and he shared his as well.

“I think this is something the students need to understand and acknowledge,” he said. “I am thankful they didn’t have to live through that day, which was a pretty hideous day. Now, this day is a National Day of Service. So it is nice to say, ‘Let’s do a positive thing so that we never forget that.’ But, we can also replace it with some better memories.”

The high school and middle school students also spent a few minutes writing letters to thank military veterans.

Triton Superintendent Brian Forget oversaw a class of sophomores and said each of his students was thoroughly engaged.

“They were there for only 18 minutes, but they all wrote a great letter,” Forget said. “They signed it with their first name, school and grade, and they took it seriously.”

Freshman Dominic Cardillo, who celebrates his 15th birthday Sunday, wrote a letter to his Army veteran grandfather.

“I feel good saying, ‘Thank you’ to these people who helped,” Cardillo said. “About six years ago, my mom told me about (9/11.) She was in the hospital, giving birth to my sister (that week.) Then, this happened.”

Cardillo’s classmate Haleigh Harris said she was also happy to be able to thank a veteran with her own letter.

“I think it is truly amazing what they did for our country,” Harris said.

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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