Chelsea Argroe, the battalion commander of Wagener-Salley High School's Army Junior ROTC unit, led the cadets in the annual 9/11 commemorative program on Wednesday.
For many adults, it's hard to comprehend that Argroe was only 5 when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center twin towers and the Pentagon in 2001. She remembers nothing about that tragedy and its aftermath.
“Being a part of this ceremony gives me more of a connection to 9/11 and my understanding of it,” she said. “I didn't really know a lot of facts.”
Col. Maxie Joye (ret.) is the longtime commander of the Army Junior ROTC unit. He's proud of Argroe and the other cadets who coordinated the ceremony for the student body, faculty and community.
“They planned it and got everyone involved,” Joye said. “We had cheerleaders, the volleyball and football teams and the FFA working with us. The more they do, the more they learn and understand.”
Those groups escorted several first responders who were recognized – among them Moses Brown, a Wagener police officer.
The students were delighted that their head custodian, Leon Pough, wore the firefighting gear that goes with his work in the town of Norway
All of the students formally recognized the sacrifices of 343 firefighters, as well as police officers and Port Authority officers at the scene of the terrorist attacks.
Marita Edenfield, the battalion's public information officer, recalls only that 9/11 was the day before her birthday.
“We don't realize what these first responders did for us, and it's really touching,” she said. “This is something good our school does for our community.”
Both young women continue to appreciate the opportunities that ROTC has provided them.
Edenfield said her battalion experience has helped her become a better person. Her position in communications has allowed her to spread the word about the opportunities ROTC provides.
Argroe was shy and anxious about joining ROTC as a freshman. To her own surprise, she got to know other students she probably would not have met. Now, Argroe is the commander and student leader.
“I just really want to motivate our students,” she said of the 9/11 ceremony. “We're high school students now ... but we need to live our lives so we can stand up when our time comes.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.