September 23, 2013 -Last week, Fort Valley State University and local Peach County first responders marked the 12th anniversary of a terrorist attack that claimed 3,000 victims and forever changed America. The university honored first emergency responders, service personnel and terrorist attack victims during the 9/11 Observance Day on Sept. 11. During the occasion, the university also unveiled the future location for its USA Square.
“God bless us all, this week as we grieve with all of the families that lost loved ones on 9/11/2001,” said retired Maj. Gen. Charles Hood Jr. who delivered an address at FVSU in honor of victims.
Before the official ceremony, Fort Valley fire fighters stationed fire trucks across from the Pettigrew Center. A truck next to the Troup Building arched a white ladder above the guard’s entrance gate with a giant American flag draped from its ballast.
Earlier in the day, the campus’ clock tower chimed at the exact times the planes crashing into the twin towers, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania field to honor the victims.
Inside the Pettigrew Center, a crowd gathered for the observance. FVSU Cadet Maltricia Talbot officiated over the ceremony, welcoming students, faculty, staff and Peach County first responders.
The memorial service began with the silent entrance of FVSU President Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, First Lady Francille Griffith, and keynote speaker Retired Major General Charles M. Hood Jr. The Wildcat Battalion posted the colors, followed by FVSU Cadet Ivy Brown, who delivered an a cappella performance of the National Anthem.
FVSU Student Government Association President Rashad A. Robertson introduced keynote speaker, Maj. Gen. Hood. The Virginia native served in a variety of command positions with the military. Following 30 years of service in the active army, Hood came out of retirement to serve under President George H. W. Bush as an adjutant general in the U.S. Virgin Island National Guard.
Hood recounted the story of a woman, named Shirley, who lost a sibling on Sept. 11, 2001. On that tragic morning, Shirley was surprised with a phone call from her brother, Anthony White, who worked in World Trade Center Tower II. White asked his sister to turn on the television. He told her that a plane had hit the first tower, and it was on fire. At the time, her brother believed the crash was a terrible accident. Suddenly, the phone line died. Shirley watched her television in horror as a second plane hit the second tower. White died in the building.
Hood read a touching poem that Shirley had given him to read before the crowd. The retired serviceman said he was astonished that many Americans did not understand the need for increased security measures, but said they were necessary needed.
“When Americans complain about security checkpoints at airports, I wonder if they forgot about 9/11,” he said. “We have these measures in place, because, as a nation, we have learned from our past mistakes. We must remember that life is precious. More than 3,000 people died that day, not to mention the thousands that were injured. If we don’t learn from our history, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.” Hood said he has positive memories of September 11, now, thanks to the birth of his grandson, who was born on September 11.
After Hood’s speech, President Griffith gave the Major General a keepsake in honor of his address. Later, Griffith read a poem by Maya Angelou called “Still I Rise,” to commemorate the victims of the tragedy. He also recognized first responders and emergency personnel at the event. The president described events like the 9/11 attacks as a day of infamy. He also compared the terrorist event to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
Following the event, drum majors from the Blue Machine Marching Band led a procession to the Academic Classroom and Laboratory Building where the future home of the new USA Square was unveiled. Fort Valley Public Safety Director Lawrence Spurgeon and Peach County Sheriff Terry W. Deese delivered remarks in honor of the occasion. Dr. Griffith finished with a poem called “I Too Am America,” by Harlem Renaissance Poet Langston Hughes.
The event wrapped up with a small reception inside the ACL Building’s lobby.
Visit FVSU’s Flickr gallery for pictures from the event: www.flickr.com.
Christina D. Milton,writer
Fort Valley State University
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