Students tour House and Senate


HANCOCK - Students at Hancock Middle-Senior High School were honored recently for helping the Shanksville (Pa.) Fire Department.

Members of the middle school's student council in February gave $1,000 to the fire department - emergency crews which responded to the crash site of United Flight 93 on Sept. 11 - from funds the students raised by selling pizzas.

"These kids took flour, yeast and tomato sauce and turned it into love," Assistant Principal Larry Smith said.

For their altruistic endeavor, the students were honored in March during a session of the Maryland General Assembly in Annapolis. House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, invited student council members for an extensive tour of the House and Senate.

He called the students' initiative "a wonderful example of character development. This is a great example of how character counts."

Taylor and Del. Robert McKee, R-Washington, hosted the 26 middle school students when they arrived in Annapolis, Smith said.


"It's not every day that a group of students are invited to Annapolis by the speaker of the house for a world-class tour," he said. "It was really a great honor for our kids and our school to be recognized for such an outstanding achievement."

Smith and middle school student council advisors Chlorous Little, April Mills and Krista Murray chaperoned the students on the trip.

"The whole experience was just like 'wow,'" said sixth-grade student Danny Mauk, 12. "It really makes you open your eyes to what it's like in the world."

The Annapolis excursion was both an educational and cultural experience for students, some of whom had never been out of Washington County, Little said.

The students watched budget proceedings on the house floor from the balcony. They had the opportunity to meet delegates, explore the House and Senate chambers, and learn more about Maryland history through such displays as dinnerware from across the state, said eighth-grader Jessica Emerson, 13.

Josh McCusker, also 13, was especially impressed with a state punch bowl on a terrapin base, he said.

Peer Jessica Unger was surprised at the constant activity on the House floor, she said.

"All you heard were people talking and debating," said Jessica, 13. "It was a great experience."

The highlight of the students' trip was when Taylor and McKee honored them with a citation in front of the legislators on the house floor, they said.

The crash of terrorist-hijacked Flight 93 into the Pennsylvania countryside on Sept. 11 made Hancock middle school students - who also organized a project to raise awareness about homelessness - more aware of their responsibility as good citizens, they said.

"If something like that hit Hancock, we'd need help," Danny Mauk said.

Shanksville firefighters, who visited the school in February, said the crash sounded like a bomb exploding, the students said.

It could just as easily happened in Hancock - a 10-minute flight from Shanksville - or another populated area if a group of heroic passengers on Flight 93 had not confronted the terrorists when they did, students said.

"It makes you grateful for the people who took over the plane. It could have been a lot worse," Danny said. "It could have taken out our whole town."

While emergency workers at the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers were honored for their responses to the terrorist crash sites in New York and Washington, D.C., it seemed that Shanksville firefighters were overlooked, Josh McCusker said.

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