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Milton students prepare for 9/11 memorial service

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MILTON, Ga. — For the past several years, students and first responders have transformed Milton High School’s front lawn into a memorial site that holds 2,977 American flags.

For each flag, row by row, students tie the name of a victim of 9/11.

On Sept. 6, around 60 students and first responders continued the tradition, setting up for a memorial service commemorating the lives lost to the 9/11 attacks. This year, the service will take place Friday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 a.m.

Setup took around 4 hours, beginning with first responders who methodically gridded the flag layout, using a tape measure, and drilled holes for each flag. There are around 51 flags in each row, alphabetized by student volunteers in the spring.

Josh Payne and James Campbell have been helping with the event since they joined the Milton Fire Department. Payne has been with the department for 15 years and Campbell, for 14.

“It’s a big deal for us,” said Payne.

On Sept. 11, 343 firefighters died.

“Those guys knew the sacrifices they were making going up the steps — they knew,” Campbell said. “This is the least we could do for them.”

The Mikels and Chambers families share responsibility for organizing the event. They were asked to take over last year. Because the event is student-led, families rotate out based on who has children at Milton High School.

While the number of flags remains the same, the memorial service will be a little different this year.

“We're adding the component of really remembering the people that were impacted, or died since, as well,” Maureen Chambers said.

At the service, Milton High School seniors will read six tributes. Chambers’ son, Cory, will open the ceremony.

Milton Mayor Peyton Jamison will be one of the speakers. A visitor from New York City is also attending and will present a plaque to the school.

A student mural will be unveiled Friday as well.

The mural is to recognize hope and those that have survived, Jen Mikels said. Students listened to stories and first responders and incorporated those into the mural.

The event is led by students who were not alive during 9/11. But, education about that day and its impact is important, Chambers and Mikels said.

“It changed a lot in our world,” Chambers said.

“A lot of us lived through that day and just remember where we were,” Mikels said.

Reach Amber Perry at 770-847-8334. Follow her on Twitter @ambermarieperry