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Patriot Day at local schools draws crowd

In a solemn and patriotic exercise, the Georgia Southern University ROTC Eagle Battalion paid tribute Tuesday morning to those who lost their lives in the 9/11 tragedy six years ago.
    The gathering was held at the rotunda near the GSU Russell Union.
    A presentation of colors and a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. in conjunction with thousands of similar gatherings across the nation honored not only the victims but the public safety officers who risked their lives - and gave them as well - in trying to save others.
    President George W. Bush declared Tuesday as Patriot Day and asked Americans to fly the flag at half-mast. In a speech, Bush said "September 11, 2001, was a defining moment in American history. On that terrible day, our nation saw the face of evil as 19 men barbarously attacked us and wantonly murdered people of many races, nationalities, and creeds. On Patriot Day, we remember the innocent victims, and we pay tribute to the valiant firefighters, police officers, emergency personnel, and ordinary citizens who risked their lives so others might live."
    Representatives of local law enforcement, firefighters and other public safety agencies attended the event, as well as a handful of citizens including students and GSU faculty.
    "I got a notice on Facebook about (the observance)," said Kristi Hester, a junior at GSU. "I just wanted to pay tribute to the country and remember the victims."
    David White, also a junior at the university, lingered after the ceremony, talking to friends.
    "I just wanted to come out and remember the people who have fallen and gave their lives for their country," he said. "It's the greatest sacrifice you can give."
    White also wanted to attend the observance because he spends time with the ROTC doing physical training, although he is not an ROTC member.
    As people watched, the ROTC cadets presented the colors, unfurled first the American flag, followed by the Georgia state flag and finally, the University flag.
    The flags rippled in the slight breeze as everyone bowed their heads at precisely 8:46 a.m., joining others across the country in remembering the tragedy that took over 3,000 lives six years ago.
    Afterward, Cadet Lt. Col. Robert Doak, Eagle Battalion commander, said the ceremony had personal meaning for him.
    "For me, personally, it meant a lot because my older sister went to ROTC and has been to Iraq once," he said. "This is a good way to remember what we're doing and why we're doing it."

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