“Football Fridays in Georgia” is off this week as you may know. However, we will be back on Friday, September 11th at Etowah High School when the Eagles host the Walton Raiders. There will be plenty of time during that week to talk about the matchup itself, but for now, I want to tell you about what I experienced this week while visiting Etowah High. Without revealing too much about the feature that will air on Friday September 11th, here are five things to know about the making of the 9/11 Memorial at Etowah High…

1.      The Man

I learned that Etowah is the only high school in the state of Georgia with a permanent monument that honors those lost in the terrorist attacks of September 11th. There are many temporary ones; however, this one is unlike all the others in so many ways. Principal Keith Ball got the “ball” rolling and is the man behind the mission. A native New Yorker, he was officially declared a southerner when he moved to Florida in 1998. Since his time down south he eventually made his way to Georgia. This memorial is not his first, but his third. 

2.      The Monument

This was not a project done half-heartedly. Ball brought all the bells and whistles to make sure that this memorial would stand the test of time. Aside from the stucco wall and steel skyline of New York City, you’ll also notice a stone in the center. It’s in the shape of the Pentagon and was donated by Rolling Hills Memorial. I found it particularly touching that he honored Flight 93 that went down in Shanksville, PA. I think many people tend to only remember the twin towers and the Pentagon. You’ll find a touching tribute to Flight 93 here. Side note: It weighs 550 pounds! 

3.      The Mystique

Much of this project cannot be measured monetarily. When you look at it, you won’t see money, but you’ll see character. It was built 100% out of passion and love for the American people. Although, I think you’ll find it interesting to know that the entire monument is worth about $25,000 in total. That’s the cost of the materials it took to make it. The Etowah cheerleaders sold 9/11 memorial t-shirts that brought in $10,000 worth of revenue. Joshua Saye is the art teacher who built the monument and the cost of that labor was free (about 60 hours of welding), and he was beyond thrilled to make it.

4.       The Manpower

Joshua Saye came up with the design for the monument. It is the largest sculpture he’s ever made, (aside from furniture he builds at home, he said). He was approached by Mr. Ball about the idea and Saye turned it into a reality. He went home that night and created a sketch that would eventually evolve into a magnificent work of art. Behind the NYC skyline are the two towers. They are “there, but not there,” he said, and forever in our hearts. 

5.      The Mission

The mission of this project is obviously to honor those lost in the attacks. However, it is also important to Mr. Ball and his staff that history never be forgotten. The best way to do that is to always be one step ahead of the game. This is a generation of many students who were not alive when the attacks happened. Many do not have any tangible memories of that day in our history. That’s why they’ve installed a QR code (honestly, I didn’t know what that was before I had to download it during the making of this piece), so that anyone can take their smart phone and scan the code. It will take you to a beautiful dedication video accompanied with photos and information about what happened that day in 2001. That is really cool, if you ask me!

Yes, it was a disturbingly sad day in our history, but it’s important to embrace each other as Americans and remember the true heroes of our country. That’s what you’ll find here and I encourage you to go see it. For the full video feature on this, be sure to tune into GPB on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 7:00 PM for our “All Access Pass.”

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Also, another side note: I will be in Moultrie, Georgia this weekend for another story that will air in October when we are broadcasting from Colquitt County High School. They have moved into a brand new school and I’m hitting the road to check it all out. This will be my first time in South Georgia for a Friday night football game and I’m super pumped! Be sure to get caught up with us socially and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for deets! We go by @GPBsports on all platforms, including SnapChat! We’re new with that part. And hip. See y’all on the gridiron!