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Community remembers 9/11 with service, candlelight vigil
Gov. Deal speaks at Free Chapel commemoration ceremony
Students fill the drill field at North Georgia College & State University Sunday evening during a candlelight ceremony at the conclusion of a 9/11 observance. - photo by Tom Reed

The terrorist attacks on the United States 10 years ago mean "everything" to 28-year-old Kristen Yost and her family.

It's part of the reason Yost, a native of Washington state, and her husband, a ranger instructor at Camp Frank D. Merrill, live in Dahlonega.

It is, no doubt, why the young mother of five has had to manage the duties of parenthood on her own for months at a time during her husband's five deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's why she stood in a field with hundreds of others remembering the events of 10 years ago in a candlelight vigil Sunday at North Georgia College & State University.

"What happened on this day really paved the path for our life ahead of us - five deployments: constantly not knowing what the next deployment will hold, what friends are going to go and what friends are going to go back home," Yost said.

As one of six senior military colleges in the United States, the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, hold a special significance for those connected to the school.

The school has lost seven students or alumni since the War on Terror began in October 2001.

Its memorial service Sunday honored those who continue to live out the events that the terrorist attacks 10 years ago set into motion.

"Our nation has been at war for almost a decade - the longest period of continuous combat for our all-volunteer force," said Col. Michael Pyott, the university's professor of military science. "... Never before has America asked so much of our military."

For civilian students, the day reminded them "how fragile freedom is," said John Clower, vice president of NGCSU student affairs.

Gov. Nathan Deal focused on Americans' resolve to fight back for that freedom as he spoke to the congregation of Free Chapel Worship Center in Gainesville earlier in the day.

"Evil always anticipates that its sword will be so sharp and so severe that the conscience of good people will shrink either into being intimidated or to simply being inactive," Deal said. "Thankfully, that has not been the heritage of the American people."

And Jentezen Franklin, Free Chapel's pastor, reminded his congregation of thousands Sunday morning of the verse "weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning."

And as the nearly full moon rose over Dahlonega Sunday night, hundreds of cadets and students lit candles with the intention of igniting hope that their country and their fellow soldiers would one day heal from the wounds of 10 years ago.

"We hope these candles will remind us that the light of freedom burns within each of us, and that we each have a responsibility to carry it forward into the darkness of the world," Clower said. "May the light of freedom never be extinguished, God bless the United States of America."


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