BONITA, Calif. (KGTV) - Students at Sunnyside Elementary school in Bonita got a big surprise Friday for their annual Law Enforcement Day.
In addition to a sheriff's helicopter landing on their field, they got to meet first responders from almost a dozen different agencies and learned about their jobs.
The event tied in 9/11 to teach kids about the importance of first responders to that day and in their daily lives.
"Our oldest students on this campus were born after 9/11," said Sunnyside Elementary School Principal Robert Cochran. "It makes me smile they didn't have to go through the uncertainty of that day."
The fact they don't remember it makes it a challenge for teachers to impress upon them how important that day is to our history and how important first responders were to it, as firefighters and police officers were the ones running towards the World Trade Center towers after the planes hit.
"I think everybody remembers where they were, what they were doing and how it impacted everyone in the nation," said Sunnyside Elementary teacher Lucy Marsh.
Marsh said meeting first responders in their community can pique the interest of kids and start the conversation about the day.
"Teaching 9/11," added teacher Jennefer Porch, "allows us to bring in trustworthiness, compassion for other people and kindness, no matter what age."
The day started with a pancake breakfast to honor parents and community members who either work as first responders or serve in the military. An assembly featured the school band playing patriotic songs, and the safety patrol marched in to start the day and scouts from several troops served as honor guard for the flags.
There was also a walk around the field for parents and their students.
But having a helicopter land on the field brought the biggest cheer from the crowd.
"It's better than, instead of seeing it on TV, we can see it up close and get to know what they (first responders) do," said 6th grader Julian Ramirez.
Parents agreed the event helped the lesson stick.
"There's a lot of brave people that risked their lives to go and help," said John Funk, whose son is in 5th grade at Sunnyside. "That's key for the kids to understand there are people out there willing to sacrifice themselves to help others."