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Students honor memory of 9/11 with patriotic event

CSU singers tackle the National Anthem a capella Wednesday. From left, Angie Plate, Lynelle Andre ws, John Bennett and Jacob Augsten. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

CSU singers tackle the National Anthem a capella Wednesday. From left, Angie Plate, Lynelle Andre ws, John Bennett and Jacob Augsten. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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A four-piece ensemble entertains the crowd with smooth jazz selections Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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The U.S. Army was represented by, left to right, Staff Sgt. Harvey B. McCuiston, Sgt. 1st Class Deon W. Nalley, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Jackson and Spc. Joseph LeGras. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Firefighters with Clayton County Engine 8 enjoy free burgers and hot dogs Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

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Joseph Echols, who works in the CSU admissions office, puts the moves on a grill full of burgers Wednesday. (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)

MORROW — The average college student was likely in elementary school when the country was hit with its worst act of terrorism Sept. 11, 2001.

Dozens of Clayton State University students gathered Wednesday on the Student Activities Center green to pay tribute to first responders and members of the military 12 years after the tragedy.

As the country moves ahead in time from Sept. 11, some events commemorating the date seem to evolve from somber remembrances to celebrations of life and hope for the future. No matter the tone, there is a deep, abiding appreciation for the men and women in uniform who risk their lives every day for complete strangers.

Wednesday’s event provided live entertainment from students and burgers and hot dogs grilled right there on site. A handful of servicemen attended, as did Clayton County firefighters from Engine 8.

The guests of honor were rounded out by about 100 students, faculty, staff and other folks who turned out to show their support.

CSU students Angie Plate, Lynelle Andrews, John Bennett and Jacob Augsten kicked off the event with a rousing, a cappella version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” A four-piece ensemble entertained the crowd with smooth jazz selections, among other music genres.

The Army was represented by Staff Sgt. Harvey B. McCuiston, Sgt. 1st Class Deon W. Nalley, 2nd Lt. Benjamin Jackson and Spc. Joseph LeGras, who came dressed as the student he is.

“Sorry, I’m not in uniform,” he said, taking a bite of a burger. “I just came from classes.”

Student organizers said Wednesday marked the third anniversary of the university paying tribute to Sept. 11. They said it was a way for students to interact with first responders and service members and say, “Thank you.”

“This celebration has been designed for the Clayton State community and surrounding neighbors to remember the victims of the 9/11 attacks, show pride for the unity and the strength of our country and to pay homage to our very own first responders,” said Atawanna L. Royal, assistant director of Department of Campus Life.

On that day 12 years ago, 403 New York City firefighters, paramedics, police and Port Authority officers died with thousands of others when terrorist-manned jets slammed into the twin World Trade Center towers.

That dual tragedy represented just half of the devastating attacks on the United States Sept. 11, 2001, but it marked the deadliest day in history for NYC firefighters, with a loss of 343 personnel.

Two other jets, each taken over by terrorists, also crashed. A Boeing 757 slammed into the west side of the Pentagon military headquarters, killing 125 in the building and all 64 on board the plane.

The other jet was diverted from its unknown intended target by passengers who learned of the twin towers attack and fought the terrorists. All 45 on board died when United Flight 93 crashed into a western Pennsylvania field.