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Kennerly Patriot Day Parade Celebrates First Responders

Sept. 15, 2021

Hundreds of Kennerly Elementary School students lined the school’s front parking lot waving homemade signs, American flags, and cheering as first responders drove past the students on Friday, Sept. 10, for a Patriot Day parade. 

It was the day before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and the school hosted its annual parade celebrating the community’s police officers, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, doctors and other first responders. Students and staff wore their patriotic red, white and blue clothes to show support.

This is the first year that Kennerly has hosted its parade on Patriot Day. Patriot Day has occured on Sept. 11 of each year since 2002 as a day of remembrance for the victims of 9/11 and as a way to celebrate the country’s first responders.

Elsewhere in the district, students in Lindbergh’s Accelerated and Remote Courses (ARC) program also celebrated Patriot Day by sending emails to local first responders. 

For some Kennerly families, the parade had even more meaning.

“I’m actually a third generation firefighter,” Luke Van Cleave said. “My grandpa retired from Richmond Heights [Fire Department], I’ve got an uncle that works at the Brentwood Fire Department and I’ve got another uncle that works for Monarch Fire Department.”

Van Cleave is a Captain for the Richmond Heights Fire Department and the father of two Kennerly students - Macoy and Kenedee. He attended this year’s parade and has previously spoken to his daughter's class about being a firefighter. Van Cleave said that he enjoys seeing the kids get excited about seeing the police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, as well as the first responders.

“I think kids look at us a little differently and that it’s fun to help people,” Van Cleave said. “It gives them goals to set for their future and see that helping people is something to be appreciated. This is awesome and it shows that people respect you for being there and trying to help people.”

Also in attendance were Kennerly parents Keith Warttig, a Fire Captain for the St. Louis Fire Department, and Aaron Roediger, a Lieutenant for the St. Louis County Police Department and a Lindbergh High School alumnus. 

“I always wanted to be a police officer when I was young,” Roediger said. “My older brother was a policeman for the City. In 1988, he started as an officer for the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and I always looked up to him. I was only 13 and wanted to be a cop. I was in the military after High School and joined the police after that.”

Warttig wanted to be a fireman when he was a child.

“There were times I wasn’t sure that it would happen, but over time it became a possibility,” Warttig said. “I came to the fire department when I was 24. I had many jobs before, but I was always trying to become a fireman.”

Like Van Cleave, both Warttig and Roediger enjoy the Patriot Day parade and getting to see the students show their support.

“I liked seeing how excited the kids were and the patriotism that they displayed with all of their homemade signs and flags,” Roediger said. “It really struck a chord with me. It’s a very nice and rewarding experience.”