Milledgeville — A deafening boom echoed across Georgia Military College’s campus Monday morning as Ben Carrick fired the institution’s howitzer, marking the moment 22 years ago when the first plane hijacked by terrorists struck the north tower of the World Trade Center.
A retired U.S. Army major, Carrick fired the cannon three more times, remembering when three other hijacked planes crashed into the south tower, the Pentagon and an open field in Somerset County, Pennsylvania.
Carrick was among many Georgians commemorating. the Sept. 11 anniversary. Events around the state included traditional bagpipe music, the ceremonial ringing of bells and visits from New York City firefighters and police officers. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Darin Schierbaum visited Cathedral of Christ the King for the annual “Blue Mass” in honor of public safety officials.
Carrick, who serves as Georgia Military College’s corps of cadets operations officer, saw his campus’ ceremony as a history lesson for his students. The terrorist attacks prompted him to enlist in the military and serve in 19th Special Forces Group. A combat veteran of the war in Iraq, his son and wife have also served with the U.S. military in the Middle East.
After he was done firing the howitzer, Carrick paraphrased the late Spanish-American philosopher and poet George Santayana, saying: “If you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it.”
Carried out by 19 Al Qaeda terrorists who hijacked four commercial planes, the attacks killed people from 93 nations, according to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. Of those, 2,753 were killed in New York; 184 were killed at the Pentagon; and 40 died on Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
Among the victims were 16 men and women who were born in or who lived in Georgia, the museum’s records show. They came from cities and towns from across the state, including Atlanta, Gainesville, Lithonia, Macon, Pine Mountain and Sycamore. Like Carrick, some served in the U.S. Army. Others worked for professional and financial service firms in New York.
Sadie Ette, who was born in Atlanta and grew up in Nigeria, worked as an account representative at Windows on the World, a restaurant in the north tower, according to the museum. She was there on the day of the attacks. Her obituary says her cousin, Ben Edokpayi, was packing up her Manhattan apartment when he spotted a Bible on her pillow. It was opened to Psalm 91, which speaks about divine protection for the faithful.
“That gave me some sense of relief,” Edokpayi said.
Marjorie Salamone, who grew up on a dairy farm in Pine Mountain, worked as an Army budget analyst at the Pentagon and was a constant presence at her two daughters’ schools, according to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. The memorial quotes Dr. Ben Salamone as saying his late wife was “a very loving person, and I sincerely miss her. I saved all the letters, cards and notes she ever wrote me. One day, I’ll let my daughters see them.”
At the commemoration in Milledgeville, Gov. Brian Kemp underscored the bravery of the first responders who risked their lives on Sept. 11 as well as the U.S. service members who fought in the wars afterwards.
“They charged headfirst into danger, working alongside each other to rescue their fellow citizens, and to fight for this great country,” Kemp said as sirens coincidentally sounded from an emergency unfolding somewhere in the distance.
The governor then joined First Lady Marty Kemp and some of the college’s students in placing a wreath at the base of the campus flagpole, memorializing those who died. A ceremonial rifle team fired three volleys. Taps was performed. On one of the campus’ read brick pathways, students wrote with white chalk the names of those who died.
Emma Kate Godin, a student cadet lieutenant colonel, has participated in her college’s annual “Patriot Day Ceremony” since the sixth grade.
“It is a really good way to express our gratitude,” said Godin, who plans to study medicine and join Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization.
Fellow student Kyaire Manlove, who serves as the college’s regimental commander, has already joined the Georgia National Guard and dreams about becoming an explosive ordnance disposal officer.
“We see it as remembering those who fought for us,” Manlove said.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Richard Moody gazed proudly at the uniformed students as they stood at attention in front of the state’s former capitol, a castle-like building that was bathed in morning sunlight. Moody’s granddaughter was among the ranks.
“Very impressive,” said Moody, a Vietnam War veteran who graduated from Georgia Military College. “That is what it is all about.”