STARKVILLE — Like many of her Mississippi State University classmates, Madison Poole was a child when terrorists attacked the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.
Her concept of terrorism and war had yet to take shape. As she watched the steady stream of live footage and tried to make sense of the rising death toll, her only connection to the events of that day was a bloodline.
Poole”s father was a banker in Washington, D.C., not far from the Pentagon, where five hijackers crashed American Airlines Flight 77.
Poole”s father wasn”t hurt in the attacks. But a family friend, a New York paramedic, was in the heart of ground zero, responding to the emergency call at the north tower. The family friend, like Poole”s father, was uninjured on 9/11.
No more than 10 years old, Poole”s perspective of community and volunteerism was shaped after that day.
Thursday, Poole was one of 175 MSU students to pledge volunteer service at “I Will” tribute booths set up by the Maroon Volunteer Center on campus. Poole, a sophomore accounting and criminology major from Haleyville, Ala., pledged to continue her volunteer efforts to support veterans through Silver Wings, an Air Force-affiliated student services group.
“I”d been in New York just a week before,” Poole recalled. “I saw the buildings and everything. I also saw ground zero after it happened. All of the churches and memorials had a deep emotional impact on me.
“I don”t think (fellow students) realize how important it is,” Poole added. “That even though you might pass someone on the street and not know who they are, in the long run, they may be the one coming to help you. If you don”t give something back, you might regret it.”
The most common pledge made Thursday was volunteer hours, either directly through MSU-related projects, or through church. Students also made simpler pledges, like vowing to take a more active role in their community.
Students filled out pledge cards before taking part in individual, 20-second videos explaining their pledge and memories of 9/11.
All of the video pledges will be compiled into one tribute video and 400 copies will be shipped to Operation Gratitude, which sends care packages to U.S. troops abroad.
“So far, they”ve loved it,” said Meggan Franks, MSU volunteer center coordinator. “Some of them are very moved by it. You never know the students you come in contact with that were actually there or had a family member affected. We”ve had a couple of those stories these morning. This really means a lot to them.”
Partnering with Volunteer Starkville, the Maroon Volunteer Center continued its yearly trend of organizing a local “I Will” tribute movement. The effort encourages Americans to make individual pledges of “a good deed, charitable activity, or other plans, to honor the 9/11 victims, survivors and those that rose in service in response to the attacks,” according to the website, www.911day.org.
Last year, the Volunteer Center organized a letter-writing campaign but opted for a more interactive tribute this year.
William Harris, a 22-year-old civil engineering major from Boothwyn, Pa., remembers the how 9/11 galvanized his community.
“There was so much love and compassion after 9/11,” Harris said. “You had complete strangers coming together, working for the good of everyone. This (tribute pledge) reminds students to do a good deed regardless of the schedules we have.”
Today, the center participated in the East Oktibbeha Memorial Ceremony, a series of remembrance activities that began at 9 a.m. and concluded with a balloon release at 2 p.m.
The Maroon Edition Habitat for Humanity service project will include two shifts today and Saturday, where volunteers may pledge their time in honor of 9/11.
The week”s activities conclude at 2 p.m., Sunday, with a 9/11 tribute at Starkville Fire Station 1 on University Drive. MSU Provost Jerry Gilbert and Starkville Mayor Parker Wiseman are among the speakers at the event.
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