This year, September 11 was remembered from the air, but in a more positive vein.

Friday morning, 720 Mesa Grande Elementary School students, dressed in red, white and blue, trooped out onto the school's athletic field, found their place on lines spray-painted on the grass and looked up.

Above them, parent Susan Alvarez circled in a single-engine plane, snapping pictures. Beneath her, the students and school staff spelled out the letters "USA."

"I thought about it two years ago, with my nephew who flies," Alvarez said later. "I had flown with him before, and taken pictures of my home."

She had brought up the idea with Mesa Grande Principal Pam Seeger at the end of the last school year. As a long-time parent, the idea didn't sound quite as strange as it might have.

"My oldest is 15, so they've known me for a long time," Alvarez said. Two of her children attend Mesa Grande. Amy is in sixth grade and Natalie is in second.

"I did have to process it a little while," Seeger laughed Friday afternoon. "The students loved it today. They thought it was a great. Of course, they always love looking at aircraft."

In the end, Alvarez's nephew was grounded by fog, and Hesperia flight instructor Kelly Orlando saved the day, and the aerial photo session.

"From above, they looked picture-perfect," Alvarez said.

"All the teachers are also going to post the pictures in their classrooms, and the students are going to write letters to the troops to thank them," Seeger said. Teachers "tied it in with the standard of writing letters and working on our writing skills."

"I had a lot of fun up in the airplane," Alvarez said. "I think the kids had a lot of fun down on the ground."

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.