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Events to mark anniversary of 9/11 attacks

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UNG will hold a Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony at noon on Sept. 11 on the Drill Field. The event will be broadcast online, as only 50 people will be allowed at the in-person event to promote social distancing.

This year's Sept. 11 remembrance ceremony will be livestreamed for the first time, allowing students, faculty and staff on any of the University of North Georgia's (UNG) five campuses and the public to watch. The UNG Corps of Cadets and Student Government Association (SGA) Instagram pages will broadcast the remembrance.

Dr. Billy Wells, a retired Army colonel and UNG's senior vice president for leadership and global engagement, is the speaker for the event. Wells, a Distinguished Military Graduate from Mississippi State University, retired from the Army in 2005 after 30 years of service. He is a graduate of the Army War College and holds a master's degree in education from Louisiana State University and a doctorate in higher education from Vanderbilt University.

In a change from previous years when a candlelight vigil was held, this year's event — and the livestream — will be at noon Friday, Sept. 11, on the Gen. William J. "Lipp" Livsey Drill Field. The crowd, which will include local police, firefighters and nurses, will be limited to 50 people on a first-come, first-served basis to promote social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

About 3,000 Americans were killed when terrorists hijacked airplanes and crashed them in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. UNG has lost eight alumni in combat since 9/11.

"It's a very important event to a lot of students. It's something we want to honor and remember," said Molly Vandiver, Student Government Association (SGA) representative on UNG's Dahlonega Campus. "It will give us a sense of normalcy."

Vandiver, a senior from Chickamauga, Georgia, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, said the inclusion of nurses in this year's event was a natural fit. So many of the faculty members in the nursing department have been serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight.

"It's important to honor these people putting their lives on the line and facing so many changes in the middle of this pandemic," Vandiver said.

Some leaders from UNG's Corps of Cadets will take part in the ceremony, but due to safety considerations, the whole Corps will not march at the event as it has at the previous vigils.

Mallory Rodriguez, director of student leadership at UNG, said Sept. 11 is a vivid reminder of the sacrifices Americans can easily take for granted.

"It definitely reminds you of people who are willing to go into situations with great care for others that we don't really think about until something happens," Rodriguez said. "They think about it every day."

In addition to the remembrance ceremony, UNG will host a station on the promenade on UNG's Dahlonega Campus from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 10 where students can write letters of support to military service members and local first responders. The letter activity will be known as "Lest We Forget," a phrase often used in military remembrances.

"It's such a historical event that shaped so much in our nation," said retired Sgt. 1st Class Chris Cato, UNG's assistant director of military operations. "It motivated a lot of people to raise their right hand to join the military and say 'send me.'"

Cato also noted the way Sept. 11 highlighted the importance of first responders.

"That was the front line then, all those firefighters and police officers who ran into the burning buildings to try and save people," Cato said. "It's extremely important for society today to remember the sacrifices of so many men and women on 9/11."

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