More Than A Flagpole: Middle School Gets 9/11 Memorial

West Pine Middle students and participants gather at the memorial during its dedication. Contributed Photo


Earlier this summer, West Pine Middle School had a special project built on its campus. Through several donations, the school now has near its athletic fields a Sept. 11 memorial that includes a new 25-foot flagpole.

During a dedication ceremony, local leaders and students attended to mark the occasion. Attendees included: retired Lt. General and resident Robert VanAntwerp, who gave the ceremony’s keynote address; Moore County Commissioners Nick Picerno and Jim Von Canon; Board of Education Chairman Robert Levy; West Pine Middle Principal Jeni Wiley; Assistant Principal Bryonn Willms; several members of American Legion Post 72 in Aberdeen; the Southern Pines Fire Department Honor Guard; several local first responders; and West Pine Middle students.

The project came about during a soccer game when spectators noticed there was no flag during the National Anthem.

Jeremy Rust, president and owner of Landscape Design Innovation Group, based nearby in West End, approached Wiley and the school’s athletics director with an idea to help in putting up a new flagpole at the rear of the school near the athletic fields.

Rust expanded on the idea after getting inspiration from a family vacation to Washington, D.C. and a business trip to New York City that included a visit to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum at Ground Zero. He decided to design a 9/11 Memorial in which the flagpole was the centerpiece.

Rust and his team worked with the school, and the PTA raised money for the pole. Several vendors,  including Harris Trucking, Buy Sod, SiteOne, Concrete Supply Co. and Hughes Supply assisted with materials and donated  to the cause.

“Without the involvement of our vendors, this beautiful design would have been just an idea in our minds rather than a great space to reflect and remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001,” Rust said. “After all, the old saying goes, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’”

Rust and his team provided all the design, permitting and labor.

Elements of the design include symbolism and inferences to Sept. 11.

The 9/11 Memorial at West Pine Middle School. Contributed Photo

Inclusion of a seat wall around the base of the flagpole is in the shape of a pentagon and symbolizes the crash site at the Pentagon. Extending out from the walls of the Pentagon seat wall are score lines in the concrete that form a star, suggesting that people in all 50 states were impacted by that day.

Connecting the five points of the star is the edge of the concrete patio space, forming a circle inferring the togetherness in following days.

“As the circle shape is unending, so should our memory be of those tragic events,” Rust said.

Four Crape Myrtle trees surround the patio and flagpole to represent the four airplane crash sites that day. The white flowering trees suggest peace.

Rust said the single flagpole represents One World Trade Center in New York City. This building was built back in New York City. Like that building, the school flagpole can be seen from all over the athletic areas of the campus. It rests atop one of the highest points on the campus, which was at Wiley’s direction.

Rust and his family donated the first flag that was raised at the event, which was flown over the New York City 9/11 memorial on the 30th anniversary of the first terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 1993.

In his keynote address, VanAntwerp shared a story about the impact a special middle school teacher, Mrs. Muchmore, had in his life. He said he flew her to six of his promotion ceremonies.  

VanAntwerp was stationed at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001 in the A wing of the facility. Because of a conference call off base he along with several others in his office were spared. American Airlines Flight 77’s left wing crashed right through his office, killing two of his colleagues and seriously injuring another. 

The memorial will be used by the sports teams and teachers for many events in the future and will help serve as a reminder that students can learn about Sept. 11, 2001, and never forget.