To commemorate the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, four students from Clayton State University –– who belong to the school's ROTC program –– formed the color guard at the special, "remembrance" ceremony at the World Trade Center of Atlanta, earlier this week.
Lt. Robert Walker, the university's senior military science instructor, said the students were invited by John Parkerson, president of the World Trade Center of Atlanta, and director of international programs for Clayton State, to honor the fallen, and the heroes of 9/11, at the 10th anniversary luncheon on Monday.
"They made us all very proud," said Walker, who commended the cadets on their professionalism and noted how each of them was elated to meet keynote speaker, former U.N. Ambassador and mayor of Atlanta, Andrew Young. "[The students] really enjoyed themselves," he said, "None of them had ever met Andrew Young."
According to Parkerson, the four cadets left a lasting impression with Young, as well. Parkerson said Young made a comment to him after his speech about how much he enjoyed meeting the cadets and chatting with them. But, "Not only did ... the cadets impress Ambassador Young," Parkerson said, "... the cadets also impressed Mayor Kasim Reed's chief of staff, Candace Byrd, and the Mayor's International Affairs Liaison, Noah Downer."
The students included: cadets, Carrenza Morris, of College Park; Kaelen White, of Atlanta; NuKonda White, of Thomaston, and Viet Le, of Morrow.
Nukonda White and Viet Le both recalled the atmosphere the day of the luncheon, and agreed there was an immense sense of pride that filled the room. They said they were honored and glad to be a part of the event.
Both also shared stories of where they were 10 years ago, when the events of 9/11 happened. White said she was a nurse during that time. "I looked up at the television screen, and it was just unreal," she said.
Le said he was in the sixth-grade, and couldn't really recall what emotions were running through him at the time. "I was in Mrs. Jones class, and we were on lock down for hours," he said. "I didn't see what happened until I got home."
The two said they never thought they would be extended an invitation to honor those who risked, or lost, their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and on the hijacked plane that went down in Pennsylvania. They said they were even happier, however, to be able to pay tribute to the soldiers currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I have a friend in Iraq now," said Le.
White said she still gets emotional whenever she thinks about 9/11, and that is a large part of the reason why she joined the ROTC program at Clayton State.
Lt. Walker said he believes that the cadets' attendance at the luncheon will bring positive exposure to the CSU ROTC program. "The Clayton State ROTC program has only been around for four years," he said. "There were people from all over, who were in attendance, and because of that, this will give the program exposure."
More than 100 individuals attended the luncheon, said Parkerson, from various businesses, government entities, agencies and organizations, such as: Bank of America; Georgia State University's Robins College of Business; John Portman Enterprises; the Nelson Mullins law firm; the Istanbul Center of Georgia Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce; the Islamic Speaker's Bureau; the State of Georgia Appellate Court Judiciary; Sunrise Bank; the American Nigerian International Chamber of Commerce; the Russian American Business Alliance; and the Sandy Springs Chamber of Commerce.