By Cindy Hsu

MONTVALE, N.J. (CBS 2) — They survived some of the worst tragedies the world has ever known, and on Thursday nearly 50 heroes traveled to a New Jersey school to share their incredible stories.

It looked like a normal day at Fieldstone Middle School in Montvale until people went into the classrooms. The teachers for the day on Thursday were all inspiring speakers, like professional break-dancer Luca Patuelli, who was born with a muscle disorder that affects his legs.

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Amputee athlete Dave Stevens told students in Montvale, NJ about his experiences in college football and minor league baseball. (credit: CBS 2)

“In life, we’re all faced with challenges,” Patuelli said. “It’s the minute that we create that excuse and we say we can’t do this because of, without even trying, that’s when the real limitation comes into play.”

Every classroom played host to amazing stories from survivors – ranging from the Lost Boys of Sudan to September 11, the Holocaust to the Oklahoma City Bombing – all bringing life lessons to students.

“Have people who actually experienced it, not authors who are writing about it, but actual people telling you that, ‘I was there, I saw it,’” student volunteer Patrick Reynolds said.

Principal Mark Maier started the program, calling it a day of ‘Respect, Reflect and Remember.’

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“To create an atmosphere of tolerance, of respect, of responsibility,” Maier said.

Dave Stevens, an amputee athlete, shared the challenges he faced early on.

“This is a low strike zone, so somebody would say, ‘oh, that’s cheap baseball – he’s just up there to get a walk,’” he said.

Stevens blew the students away with his determination.

“They see I’ve played college football, and I’ve played minor league baseball, and I just worked out with the [Tampa Bay] Rays, and suddenly it’s like, ‘wow, I didn’t expect that,’” Stevens said. “That’s kind of my message: you can do anything you want with whatever you’ve got, as long as you shoot for the stars.”

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To make sure the students never forget the amazing day, each speaker wrote a message on a bulletin board that stays up at the school permanently.

Cindy Hsu