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UNG remembers 9/11 at candlelight vigil

Sept 11 vigil 2018
UNG marked the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks with a candlelight vigil Tuesday night on the Dahlonega Campus.

The University of North Georgia (UNG) marked the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with a candlelight vigil Tuesday night on UNG's Dahlonega Campus.

Retired Maj. Richard Neikirk, assistant commandant of the Corps of Cadets, was the featured speaker. Neikirk recalled the anger and frustration of the day.

"I wanted to know who did this and why it was happening to our country," Neikirk told the students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered on the Gen. "Lipp" Livsey Drill Field.

While it was a day of great sadness, Neikirk said it also brought out the best in America.

"No matter what happens, our resolve remains strong," he said.

UNG's Student Government Association (SGA) held the ceremony in honor of university alumni who died in military service to the United States, including during the global war on terror. The ceremony also recognized emergency services personnel and members of the armed forces in addition to honoring, grieving and memorializing the 2,977 individuals killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Neikirk said 17 years later the United States is "still fighting the bad guys." The toll has been heavy, including eight UNG graduates killed in combat since 9/11: Thomas E. Vitagliano (Iraq), Charles H. Warren (Iraq), Jeremy A. Chandler (Afghanistan), Paul Saylor (Iraq), Mitch Young (Afghanistan), Kevin M. Jenrette (Afghanistan), Andrew H. McConnell (Afghanistan), and Weston C. Lee (Afghanistan).

"These eight North Georgia alumni gave the ultimate sacrifice," he said.

Neikirk also pointed to the heroism of first responders working the scenes of the attacks.

"So many lost their lives trying to save people in those buildings," Neikirk said.

Lily Bowen, a freshman cadet majoring in biology from New Orleans, Louisiana, and who is enlisted in the Georgia National Guard, was grateful to participate in her first UNG 9/11 vigil.

"The support that everybody brought out was gorgeous to see," Bowen said.

A 21-gun salute by the Blue Ridge Rifles, taps played by freshman cadet Richard "Cole" Thomas of the Golden Eagle Band, and the national anthem and "God Bless America" by the UNG Patriot Choir were part of the evening marking the somber anniversary.

Neikirk called on those in attendance to regularly express their gratitude to first responders and the military.

"For all of us to have freedom, there must be sacrifices," Neikirk said.

At the Gainesville Campus, the SGA posted a banner in the Student Center, where it invited members of the campus community to sign it, providing their thoughts and remembrances of Sept. 11. SGA also had a banner students could sign thanking UNG Police for the work they do.

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