One Pauls Valley man will be among the many with a heavy heart next week when he thinks about the close friend he lost during the horrific 9-11 attacks a dozen years ago.
Now retired, Steve Jarman is already thinking about Hilda Taylor, a fellow teacher he met in the remote Amazon jungles during a workshop many years ago.
The special gathering in the late 1990s was for the JASON Project, a distance learning program that Jarman and others helped bring to local students for a time.
There he met Taylor, who had fled from a bloody conflict in Africa to arrive in Washington, D.C., where she continued her work as a teacher.
It was also Taylor and one of her young students who were among the many victims of Sept. 11, 2001.
Both were passengers on the flight terrorists intentionally flew into the Pentagon building.
Jarman’s friendship with Hilda is definitely on his mind as another 9-11 anniversary rolls around next week.
“It hit close to home,” Jarman said about learning a couple of days after the 9-11 attacks that Taylor had died in one of the planes.
“It was like a family reunion when we would get together at JASON Project workshops,” he said.
“I had lost a true friend and colleague.”
To honor Taylor and her story the former Pauls Valley teacher has set up a special display in the lobby area of Pauls Valley’s public library. The display will be featured throughout September.
For Jarman the story began back in the summer of 1998 when he was chosen to participate in a teachers’ workshop for the JASON Project.
That was a big deal, but the site of the workshop was even bigger — the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research in Peru.
“It was in the heart of the largest rainforest in the world,” Jarman said.
In the neighborhood of 25 teachers and scientists attended the hands-on workshop to kick around any and all ideas on the best ways to conduct the actual project a few months later.
“There’s a risk to sending 20 or 25 students down the Amazon River,” he said, adding there was also some delicate equipment going on the trip as well.
“We were there so they could pick our brains and talk about what we needed for the trip.”
One of the teachers he met was Hilda Taylor, who grew up in the Republic of Sierra Leone in a western portion of Africa.
She and her family came to the U.S. to escape the country’s bloody civil war at that time.
Jarman learned that Taylor was a teacher in Washington, D.C.
It was Hilda the person that Jarman remembers most.
“She was a soft spoken, quiet-natured lady who just loved to laugh,” Jarman said with fond memories.
Then came 2001 when one of Taylor’s sixth grade students, Bernard Brown III, was among the three finalists in a national geography bee.
They were planning to fly to San Diego, Calif., to take part in the contest. That’s when the tragic 9-11 attacks happened claiming the lives of both.
The very next year a new award was established by the JASON Foundation. It was named after Taylor.
“It was the highest honor they ever bestowed on a teacher participating in the JASON Project,” Jarman said.
The first recipient of the award was teacher Susan Hurstcaldron, whose class was the first in D.C. to participate in the JASON Project.
Along with Jarman and Taylor, she was one of the teachers taking part in that ‘98 workshop in Peru.
During the workshop one of her legs was seriously injured. Instead of leaving she stayed and pressed on.
That led to Jarman nominating her and then presenting that first Hilda E. Taylor Award.
(Editor’s Note: More on the Steve Jarman and Hilda Taylor story will be featured in the weekend edition of the PV Democrat.)