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Bin Laden reaction: South High School remembers three graduates and 'the price they paid'

May 2, 2011 |  1:44 pm

Matthew Ferrara At South High School in Torrance, where students, staff and the local community cope with the emotional fallout of having had three graduates killed in combat, Principal Scott McDonald delivered a special announcement Monday morning over the campus public address system.

“I didn’t speak specifically about our three lost soldiers,” he said after the announcement. “Instead, I reminded our students that they were 4, 5, 6 and 7 years old when 9/11 occurred, and that we are a diverse school representing many cultures and beliefs.”

Joseph Anzack Jr.“I reminded them to act appropriately, and with respect for each and every one of the students who  attend out school,” he said.

Then he visited the gym where four years ago he presided over a somber gathering to retire the jerseys of Army 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara, who was on the high school track team, and Army Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. and Army Spc. Micah Gifford, who played football.

The jerseys were retired, he said at the time, in honor “of the price they paid to the school, the community and the country.”

Micah Gifford“I stood there and thought about Micah, Joe and Matt, and how news of 9/11 is what had motivated  them to join the military and fight for freedom,” he said. “And I also thought about how in about eight months, when renovation work at the gym is completed, we’ll hang their jerseys back up.”

The dramatic reminder of Mario and Linda Ferrara’s loss arrived Sunday night as a bulletin that crawled across the bottom of a television screen in a Redondo Beach restaurant where they were having dinner with close relatives.

“I didn’t have my glasses on at the time, so I squinted hard to make sure I understood what it said: Osama bin Laden had been killed,” she recalled. “We felt a profound and sudden sense of happiness, like when the Berlin Wall came down.”

Matthew Ferrara, the third born of five children, was among six servicemen who were killed in an ambush Nov. 9, 2007, while leading a NATO force whose mission was to help stabilize and reconstruct war-torn Afghanistan. Ferrara was posthumously promoted to captain.

“Osama bin Laden got his just deserts,” she said. “It was a victory for the United States. Personally, it was a good ending to a chapter in the Afghanistan story one of my boys gave his life for.”

That story is not over yet for the Ferrara family. Their second-youngest son, Damon, 24, is in the 101st Airborne Division, and their youngest son, Andrew, 22, is in the 27th Infantry Division and will be deploying May 12 “to the same region where Matt was killed,” Ferrara said.

Over the last four years, her family has sent hundreds of “goodie boxes” stuffed with food and candy bars, gum and nearly 5,000 blankets to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

“I’ll stop sending goods to deployed soldiers when the need is gone,” she said.

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-- Louis Sahagun

Photos, from top: Army 1st Lt. Matthew Ferrara, Army Pfc. Joseph Anzack Jr. and Army Spc. Micah Gifford were all graduates of South High School in Torrance.

Click to learn more about the more than 600 Californians who have died in support of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Readers are invited to share memories about Matthew Ferrara, Joseph Anzack Jr. and Micah Gifford on the California's War Dead database, which chronicles the lives of more than 600 Californians who have died while supporting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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