MILTON, Ga. — The tradition of placing 2,997 U.S. flags at Cambridge High School continued this year under new guidance with local Boy Scout Troop 1459 taking over the ceremony that honors those lost on September 11, 2001.
The memorial was started by former Cambridge student Caroline Willis in 2012. After Caroline graduated, her younger sister, Liz, continued the tradition. With Liz’s graduation in 2018, the Willis family has passed organization of the event to Troop 1459, whose members say they are honored to take over the memorial.
“One of they key things that scouting really wants to teach youth is a sense of duty to self, duty to country and community service,” said Assistant Scoutmaster John Leekley. “This is a great way to support the community, teach these young men great values and give them ownership of something that is very important to people throughout the community.”
The memorial also serves as a way to help the Scouts understand the impact of 9/11. While those old enough to remember the day know its gravity firsthand, none of the Scouts of Troop 1459 were alive when the attacks took place.
However, the flag placement showed them the importance and effect of 9/11.
“When people came out to place flags, we handed them 10 flags and name cards of victims,” Leekley said. “That allowed us to teach the Scouts that we are not just placing 2,997 flags — each flag represents a person. That connection, especially reading those names as they placed a flag, really impacted them. It also showed them that flag has endured for over 200 years, and it represents very significant things, including the sacrifice people have made over the years, including the attacks on 9/11.”
The memorial also gave Scouts a chance to work alongside the North Fulton community members, some of whom were directly impacted by the attacks.
“Some people in the community came out and they requested specific name cards of people they knew, whether it was an uncle, parent, cousin or friend,” Leekley said. “Although these Scouts weren’t alive when 9/11 occurred, they were able to interact with people in their community who were directly impacted, and it indirectly impacted them because it changed the course of America.”
Scouts created a grid for the placement of the flags and invited the community to place the Stars and Stripes in front of Cambridge High School, with volunteers, first responders and residents all joining in on the ceremony Sept. 10. The following morning, Scouts raised the main flag in front of the school to half-staff and had the memorial on display throughout the day to allow residents to view the memorial and honor the victims as they wished.
At 8 p.m., a member of Troop 1459 played “Taps,” a prayer was said and the Scouts collected the flags in silence.
“As a troop we are very thankful and grateful to be able to host this event every year,” Leekley said. “We appreciate the opportunity given to us by the Willis family, Cambridge High and the support of the community, and we look forward to hosting again next year.”