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Flags in Matthews begin 9/11 remembrances

Dozens of volunteers gathered shortly before daybreak Wednesday in downtown Matthews to set up one of the Charlotte area’s annual tributes to those who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States.

Students and adults placed 2,997 small U.S. flags in the ground at Stumptown Park to commemorate the victims of the violence in New York City, Washington and Shanksville, Pa.

The “Flags of Remembrance,” in the shape of the World Trade Center’s twin towers, are sponsored by the Firefighter Steven Coakley Foundation and will be on display through Sunday, with a special tribute planned Thursday on the anniversary of the attacks.

Coakley, 36, was a member of Engine Company 217 with the New York fire department and is among 343 firefighters who died in the collapse of the two towers. Coakley was killed at the South Tower. Family members who live in Charlotte started the foundation in his memory.

On Wednesday morning, the volunteers who worked quietly as daybreak arrived included students from nearby Matthews Elementary School, Matthews firefighters and a group from Scott Safety in Monroe.

Over the next five days, several commemorative events are planned in the Charlotte area. They include:

Wednesday

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Charlotte Catholic High School will place 2,997 flags on the grounds of the school. They will be joined by other students and by staff members, starting at 4:30 p.m.

Thursday

Firefighter Steven Coakley Foundation – A memorial event begins at 8:30 a.m. and will include a bell-ringing at 8:46 a.m. (when American Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower); 9:03 a.m. (when United Flight 175 hit the South Tower); 9:38 a.m. (when American Flight 77 hit the Pentagon); 9:59 a.m. (when the South Tower collapsed); 10:03 a.m. (when United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa.); and 10:28 a.m. (when the North Tower collapsed).

In addition, a steel beam from the World Trade Center will be on display.

Laps for Life – Charlotte Motor Speedway and the American Red Cross will join in a moment of silence at 9:30 a.m., followed by a blood drive 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at the speedway. Blood donors can drive their personal vehicles for three laps on the track and get tickets to the Oct. 9 Bojangles’ Pole Night events at the speedway. To register with the Red Cross, go to www.redcrossblood.org (enter “Laps for Life” as the event) or call 800-733-2767.

Gastonia memorials – The Gastonia Fire Department will hold memorial services at 9 a.m. at Fire Station 1, 260 N. Myrtle School Road, and Fire Station 4, 900 Armstrong Park Road. Both events are open to the public.

Northside Christian Academy – Military members, police, firefighters and first responders will be honored at halftime of the school’s 5:30 p.m. soccer match against Southlake Christian Academy. The school is at 333 Jeremiah Drive in north Charlotte.

Hickory Patriots Day – Music, prayers and guest speaker Col. Tony Henderson will be part of this program, at 6 p.m. at Sails on the Square in downtown Hickory. Henderson was at the Pentagon on 9/11.

Friday

Patriot Bowl – This third annual high school football game features Charlotte Catholic at Mallard Creek, featuring two of the area’s top teams. There also will be skydivers, displays of military equipment, a surprise guest for the coin toss, and more. The pregame show is at 7 p.m., with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. Mallard Creek High is at 3825 Johnston Oehler Road.

Saturday

9-11 Memorial Stair Climb – Local firefighters, police officers and emergency medical personnel will climb the stairs at the Duke Energy Center, starting at 8:30 a.m. Details are at www.9-11stairclimb.com. Participants in this fourth annual event will climb 110 floors, in memory of firefighters and other first responders who tried to save victims in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

The stair climb is a benefit for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation and the Charlotte Fire Fighters Association Benevolent Fund.

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