Principal Keith Ball greeted the honored guests, including Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo, school board members, local first responders, veterans and active servicemen and women.
“We have gathered tonight to remind our community about the power of patriotism and the pride of country when citizens choose to act positively on genuine, raw emotion,” Ball said to the crowd. “We have gathered tonight to formally and appropriately dedicate a permanent reminder that from great tragedy much can be accomplished if people choose to act for the greater good.”
Ball said the memorial, which features an all-steel rendering of the New York City skyline and two large negative spaces in the stone background depicting the World Trade Center Twin Towers, was a combined effort throughout the school’s community with funds raised by both students and staff.
Ball thanked many people for their involvement on the project, including Tim Westmoreland, who designed the structure and landscape of the plaza; Jack Stone, who executed the masonry work for the stone wall; Michael Brooks, owner of Rolling Hills Memorial Gardens who constructed the donor marker and the Pentagon-shaped 10th anniversary marker; Josh Saye and Robert Putnam, Etowah’s art teachers who helped coordinate the design and welded the skyline replica.
He also thanked all donors, both recognized and anonymous, who helped make the memorial possible, as well as the 9/11 Memorial committee and band, chorus and JROTC members present that evening.
“Thank you for making this evening one of the most memorable in Etowah’s 36-year history,” Ball said.
The JROTC members then raised the American flag as well as the Flag of Honor, which features the names of all the victims who died on 9/11 prior to a moment of silence.
Kaitlin Johnson, a freshman at Georgia Institute of Technology and last year’s senior class president, said for her graduating class, the memorial represents a piece of their childhood that will never be forgotten.
“This tragic event occurred when my class was only in the second grade but it has continued to have an impact on us,” Johnson said. “Although at that time we didn’t quite fully understand what the attacks meant, we have come to fully understand the effects of that day.”
Johnson, whose father is a member of the U.S. Air Force, said the memorial will give students walking to class or driving away from the school’s parking lot a reminder of the events of 9/11 and the strength the nation has exuded since then.
Anna Claire Smith, the 2012 senior class president, said the memorial has already inspired action among the Etowah community.
“Etowah High School takes pride in our ability to serve the community,” Smith said. “Last year, Etowah students completed 11,285 hours of community service through our Commitment to Service campaign we began this day last year.”
After enrolling its largest student body to date this fall, Smith said the addition of students will allow Etowah to make an even larger impact on the community.
“Service in the community will increase pride in the community,” Smith said. “We have the potential to do momentous things and this memorial will act as a spark to igniting an even larger passion for service at Etowah.”
Ball began his closing comments by quoting President John Adams, who said: “Children should be educated and instructed on the principles of freedom.”
“Tonight, we dedicate this lasting and appropriate memorial on Patriot Day as a manifestation of Etowah High School’s mission of producing lifelong learners and productive community and global citizens,” Ball said.
Ball went on to explain the purpose of each aspect of the memorial, saying the foundation was poured on May 1, exactly a year after U.S. special forces killed Osama bin-Laden, who was believed to have orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.
“Upon the foundation is the 9/11 Memorial Wall,” Ball said. “It is convex to embrace its visitors — the echo you hear once inside the memorial is a reminder that the actions you choose are a manifestation of your character.”
He also described the skyline as being known the world over for its beauty, strength and inspiration.
“The negative space behind the skyline is symbolic for where the World Trade Center Twin Towers once stood,” Ball said.
At the base of the approximately 5-foot-tall, 14-foot-wide memorial is a solid granite, pentagon-shaped marker, placed at the onset of the memorial to honor the 189 victims of the attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The garden flanking the memorial was designed to honor the four Americans on Flight 93 who overtook terrorists attempting to take over the plane and crashed it into a field in Shanksville, Penn.
“The life that will bloom in this garden each spring and summer, the red leaves on the dogwoods on fire each fall will motivate me, you and all who come here to give more than they take to motivate us to work to become the best versions of ourselves because we have the gift of life to do so,” Ball said.
Additionally, the memorial features a Quick Response code embedded on the donor plaque so visitors can follow Etowah’s journey to the dedication day by scanning the code with their mobile devices and visiting the website linked through the code.
Tears streamed down many faces in the crowd as they erupted in applause for Ball, who ended the ceremony by saying: “Most importantly, we aspire to inspire our visitors to do something meaningful, lasting and positive.”
Several attendees said they admired the effort and time that went into completing the memorial. Cherokee County Fire Chief Tim Prather said the dedication was touching and he was honored to be a part of it.
“It’s very impressive,” Prather said. “I think it’s great. This kind of caught me off guard, how much work went into it. I’m impressed.”
Board of Education Vice Chairwoman Janet Read, whose son is a senior at Etowah, said she thought the dedication was wonderful.
“It was a great turnout,” Read said. “You can tell a lot of effort and love went into it.”