United In Remembrance | Beaufort County Now | ECU marks 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks

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    Publisher's Note: This post appears here courtesy of ECU News Services. The author of this post is Ken Buday.

A salute is given during a 9/11 memorial dedication ceremony outside the Main Campus Student Center. ECU hosted a series of events during a weeklong commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

    The sun shined brightly against a backdrop of Carolina blue, just like in New York City 20 years ago on a day that changed the world.

    East Carolina University dedicated a memorial to the 9/11 victims and to those who answered the call to help Saturday at the Main Campus Student Center. The ceremony was just one of a weeklong series of events that marked the anniversary of the terrorist attacks.

    Jeremiah James McMillian, an Army veteran who is now an ECU graduate student in criminal justice and part of the ROTC program, was in the seventh grade 20 years ago when terrorists killed nearly 3,000 people in New York, Washington, D.C., and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

    "I cried for hours," he said of watching the events on TV.

    As he grew older, he said he felt obligated to serve.

    "I thought of those amazing people running into those buildings and the courage to do that," he said. "From that event, I knew I wanted to help people."

    The sculpture features a succession of four rising columns representing the four hijacked aircraft and an opening through the middle. Members of ECU's Sculpture Guild - Michael Austin, Karena Graves, Jordan Hock, Thaddeus Prevette and Jordan Schehr - designed the piece.

    "We took bits and pieces of everyone's ideas and put it into the final design," said Prevette, a second-year graduate student in the Master of Fine Arts program. "We have pieces rising in size in succession as representative of rebuilding and reconstruction and coming back from this, and then the opening through the center is about unity and bringing everyone together."

    He was 11 years old on Sept. 11, 2001.

    "I remember getting off the bus from school and turning on the TV, and it was on every channel. I was looking for my cartoons, so I didn't understand what was going on," said Prevette, who is from Winston-Salem. "My parents got home and sat my brother and sister down and told us what was going on, and that's when the severity of it hit. And of course in the years after that, it just grew in intensity."

    Graves, also a second-year MFA graduate student, said the opening in the middle of the sculpture is a key component.

    "It's a sense of hope," the Greensboro native said. "An aspect of the piece is that you can see through it and you can see each other on the other side, so it's like reaching out and holding each other."

    She said the goal of the piece was to not only honor those killed, but also to elicit a sense of the unity and hope that followed in the days after the attack.

    "Even though we were young when it happened, we feel really honored to be able to honor those people who lost their lives and those people who were there at that moment, and we feel honored to have this on our campus where other students who were impacted can have a moment and be at peace," she said.

    The ceremony included a video of the memorial's creation, and afterward, a covering tarp was removed to reveal the sculpture. After the ceremony, many of the attendees took pictures in front of it.

    "We're really proud of what it turned out to be," Hock said.

    Student Government Association President Chandler Ward spoke about how many students on campus have very little or no memory of the attacks. But, he said, that doesn't mean they don't recognize the significance of 9/11.

    "Being on campus this week, I'm proud to say ECU has not forgotten," he said.

    Dr. Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of student affairs, delivered the keynote address, stressing the unity the country had after the attacks and the unity of the campus in marking the anniversary.

    "This is what we do. This is how we come together as Pirate Nation," she said.

    Pirates pay respect

    Inside a rowdy Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium where the Pirates played South Carolina, the Marching Pirates recognized the day with a special halftime presentation.

    Local first responders lined the field as the band played, and firefighters from the Greenville and Red Oak fire departments symbolically climbed the staircases of the stadium in memory of their fallen brothers and sisters.

    The halftime concluded with the Greenville Public Safety Pipes and Drum performing "Amazing Grace."

    Many military personnel, retired military and first responders attended the game for free thanks to Bill Clark Homes, which purchased 6,000 tickets for their use.

    Brother and sister Joe and Angela Mayancsik stood for the entire first quarter to cheer on the Pirates, who scored a touchdown on their first offensive play.

    "We're just taking it all in," Angela Mayancsik said.

    Their mother works as a nurse, and though they were in the stadium to watch a football game, the date's significance was not lost on them.

    "I'm full of gratitude for the sacrifices and everything so many people did so we can come out and do this," Joe Mayancsik said.

    Christopher Pruitt brought his two sons, Christopher Pruitt Jr. and Alvin, and his wife Michelle to the game. Michelle Pruitt, an ECU alumna, is in the N.C. National Guard, while her husband was in the N.C. National Guard on the day of the attacks.

    "We didn't leave the armory for a week," he said, adding that he later deployed to Iraq in 2003.

    He could not thank Bill Clark Homes enough for providing a day of fun for his family.

    "It's really what's important," he said. "We really appreciate the opportunity to spend some time as a family on such an important day."

    A Day of Service

    ECU's Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement organized the first of four Day of Service events for Friday to recognize the Sept. 11 anniversary.

    Student volunteers picked up trash along the road, cleaned community gardens and helped at a food bank, among other things.

    As part of the program, Bill Mallett of ECU's Office of Global Affairs spoke about his experience on Sept. 11, 2001, when he worked at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, New York, right across the river from ground zero. Though he didn't see the planes hit, he saw the smoke billowing from the towers and saw papers flutter to the ground after floating about three miles in the wind.

    "I knew this was a day I was never going to forget," he said.

    He said the college lost 14 of its alumni when the towers fell and that a number of staff members had relatives who were either killed or managed to survive the attacks. A nearby firehouse lost six of its members.

    "It was a real feeling of emptiness," he said. "It was a very sad time for a lot of people."

    But Mallett also described the resiliency, unity and support that emerged after the attack, something that continues today through the Day of Service.

    "There was a lot of sacrifice that day, but one thing I will always remember is that no matter your race or religion, that day was about helping people," he said.

    Volunteer Symone Williams, a freshman criminal justice major from Charlotte, said her great uncle died a few days after the attacks from all the smoke, dust and ash he had inhaled at the site. As a member of the N.C. National Guard, she said she felt compelled to volunteer.

    "Because I'm in the military, I see 9/11 as something important that we need to commemorate," she said.

    Williams, along with Aarjo Banerjee and Samuel Fuelleman, was among the volunteers picking up trash along Harding Street.

    "I expected there to be more trash, but it's good that there isn't," said Banerjee, a communication major from Cary.

    Fuelleman is a junior double majoring in political science and security studies. He was just 3 months old on the day of the attacks but recalls his parents' stories of how everyone stayed home and just watched TV. He said his father worked at the time in a high-rise building that was closed for a few days over concerns of another attack.

    "I just feel that I have a sense of duty to do something to pay my respects," he said. "To do service, I think that's something that's really needed right now for a lot of people."

    Never Forget

    ECU brought together multiple departments and organizations for its Never Forget: 20 Years Later 9/11 Commemoration Committee.

    Exhibits in Joyner Library and the Main Campus Student Center will remain up for those wishing to see the immediate aftermath of the attacks and how the ECU community responded.

    Documentaries and lectures were also part of the commemoration, and a sea of small American flags occupied a spot on the mall near Joyner East. A virtual Cupola Conversation discussed how far we've come since the terrorist attacks 20 years ago.

    Alex Dennis chaired the committee and is the assistant director of the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. He summed up the commemoration in simple terms.

    "Our motto is servire, which is to serve, and that's what we're doing," he told volunteers during the Day of Service.

    He said the 9/11 events and programs not only showcased the talents of ECU students through art and music, but also emphasized how the university would never forget.

    "It is critical that we continue to educate, remember and reflect on the tragic events of 9/11 so that the next generation understands the impact this attack had on our country so that we can try and make sure it doesn't happen again and that those we lost aren't forgotten," he said.
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