A desire to honor those lost in combat inspired the construction of NC State’s Memorial Belltower in the 1920s.
In that same spirit, the NC State community gathered at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Belltower to honor first responders and soldiers, especially those lost in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the wars they sparked.
Charlie Corr, an NC State police officer and former officer in the New York Police Department, was a featured speaker at the event. A first responder on the scene of the World Trade Center attack, Corr recalled those he served with who lost their lives in the Twin Towers.
“It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed,” Corr said. “There are days when it seems like it was just 10 minutes ago. Instead of focusing on the cowardly acts of those responsible, I focus on the tremendous acts of bravery.”
NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson, Student Body President Chandler Thompson and Benny Suggs, director of the NC State Alumni Association and a retired rear admiral in the United States Navy, also spoke at the memorial.
“The events of September 11, 2001, set off a chain of events that have touched lives and families all over the world, including members of our Wolfpack family,” Woodson said. “We gather today to not only honor those killed and injured in the conflict, but also to look forward in hope of peace and safety.”
Woodson read a letter from retired Gen. Hugh Shelton, an NC State alumnus who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Sept. 11, 2011. Shelton also attended the memorial.
Relatives of Lt. Cmdr. Eric Allen Cranford, an NC State alumnus who died in the attack on the Pentagon, laid a wreath at the Belltower during the memorial. In 2002, the Cranford family established a merit-based scholarship in Cranford’s honor .
The memorial reflected NC State’s longstanding connection to the U.S. military, Suggs said. More than 40 NC State graduates have gone on to become generals or admirals in the U.S. armed forces. Only the service academies have produced more.
The memorial also featured an F-15 flyover and a 21-gun salute from a rifle detail stationed at Ft. Bragg in Fayetteville. An honor guard composed of students from the ROTC programs at NC State presented the American flag.
An NC State alumnus and chaplain from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division offered the invocation.
After the memorial, attendees visited with first responders and got a closer look at a hook-and-ladder fire truck on Hillsborough Street.
Earlier in the day, the Belltower tolled at the exact times of the four plane crashes of Sept. 11, 2011.