MONTVALE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A school in New Jersey recently brought together a unique group of survivors — from World War II to the tragic Sandy Hook school shooting.
As CBS2’s Meg Baker reported, they told stories of tragedy and strength.
United by heroism and courage, they were survivors of, among others, the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Holocaust, World War II and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, cancer and more.
With the desire to share their strength and wisdom with others, a group of more than 30 people spoke to students at Fieldstone Middle School in Montvale.
Dave Stevens was born without legs, but he hasn’t let that stop him. He’s an Emmy Award winner for ESPN and multi-sport athlete.
“It’s always been better to try and fail then wonder what if,” Stevens said. “Let people know that life isn’t over despite having a disability. You can do anything you put your mind to.”
Wednesday’s event was called the “Three Rs Day” — respect, reflect, and remember. Principal Erik Parks said the event was all about teaching kids through their hearts.
Bringing tears to many eyes, Mark Barden said he remembers the morning his 7-year-old son, Daniel, was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Mark Barden’s message was to never let a student sit alone at lunch. Reach out to others.
“Realizing the importance of something so simple, one more conversation could have stopped the guy who killed all those people, could have made the difference,” Barden said.
Concentration camp liberator Eliot Hermon wasn’t able to talk about his World War II experience and what he saw during the Holocaust for years.
“It’s not a story I like to remember, but it’s a story I have to keep telling,” Hermon said. “I had the misfortune of being one of the first troops to enter the first concentration camp.”
Manuel Chea was on the 49th floor of One World Trade Center when the first plane hit.
He said the healing and realization of the enormity of what happened on 9/11 took him years to get through, adding his thoughts and prayers on Wednesday were with the victims and families of the deadly Amtrak train derailment in Philadelphia.
“Once I got to know other survivors, how we connected, that helped us to overcome the grief,” Chea said.
Despite the obstacles in their lives, the generous group pushes forward, impacting young minds in a positive and unforgettable way, Baker reported.
Fieldstone Middle School does not lock lockers. The principal said the practice is in line with their culture of respect, one of the three Rs, Baker reported.