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Campus Life

Poppies, Flyover to Mark WWI Centenary

Photo of NC State's Belltower

North Carolina’s main U.S. World War I Centennial Commission observance – and the only one of 100 worldwide events held on a college campus – will take place 3 p.m. Tuesday at the Memorial Tower, NC State’s iconic tribute to its students and alumni who served and died in the war.

NC State Alumni Association executive director Benny Suggs and Centennial Commissioner Jerry Hester, both military veterans and NC State graduates, will be among the speakers at the event, held on the steps of the Belltower. Read more about bringing this event to NC State.

Also featured will be Army ROTC Battalion Commander Nathan Durrant, retired Associate Chancellor for Student Affairs Tom Stafford and Chancellor Randy Woodson.

The plaza of the Belltower will be decorated by thousands of real and artificial red poppies, the internationally recognized symbol of remembrance, a tradition that sprouted from the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Field.”

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place, and in the sky,
The larks, still bravely singing, fly,
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The natural flowers were grown by NC State professor Bill Fonteno’s horticulture science class over the course of the spring semester.

The 40-minute ceremony will include a singing of the national anthem, an invocation, a 21-gun salute and a flyover of F-15 fighters from Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro.

A total of 34 NC State students and alumni died in the conflict, and their names, along with another that represents all who served, are engraved in the ground-level chapel of the Belltower. Read more stories about NC State’s participation in the war. Tuesday’s ceremony will include the laying of a wreath at the base of the tower and “Taps” in their memory.

The event is free and open to the public. Hillsborough Street from Maiden Lane to Logan Court will be closed during the event. Parking is available in these areas adjacent to the Belltower: The Pullen Arts Center/Theatre in the Park, the Gregg Museum of Art and Design, North Hall, the Coliseum Deck and other private lots near the Hillsborough Street roundabout.

For more about the state of North Carolina’s role in the war and to see a replica of a World War I battlefield trench, visit the North Carolina Museum of History’s exhibit “North Carolina & World War I.”