A group of Portland High School students is paying tribute to those killed in the 9/11 attacks as part of a nationwide campaign.

The school’s chapter of the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) has helped place 2,977 U.S. flags on the school’s campus along College Street. Each flag represents one victim of the terrorist attacks that took place 20 years ago.

Portland High Principal David Woods said that a student, Nicklaus Suttle, had approached him about participating in the project.

According to the organization’s website, 187 schools and colleges nationwide are participating in what is called the 9/11 Never Forget Project.

“We put 2,977 flags in front of the school to symbolize how many people died during 9/11,” Suttle said.

YAF is a conservative-leaning organization, and Portland’s chapter began this school year. The chapter currently has 31 members.

Suttle is a great-great-nephew of World War II veteran Junior Suttle, who passed away earlier this year.

“He came to me about a year, year and a half ago and wanted to start this YAF group,” Woods said. “One of the things they wanted to do is this 9/11 project.

“I said I thought it’d be a good thing.”

The flags cost $520 in total, and YAF students raised the funds through donations from area businesses. The flags were placed on the afternoon of Sept. 8.

“Starting out with no money whatsoever, we went to local businesses in Portland, and we got a lot of donations,” Suttle said. “I’m really happy that it turned out as well as it did. We weren’t born yet (when 9/11 occurred). We can see pictures, hear stories, but our generation is losing how important it was. So, (it’s) anything we can do to remember the day.”

Portland Mayor Mike Callis and State Rep. William Lamberth joined volunteers from Portland’s police and fire departments along with students in placing the flags, which took approximately 45 minutes.

“We got a lot of guys out here putting American flags in the ground,” Callis said in a video posted to the city’s Facebook page. “We’re thinking about the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and recognizing the sacrifice of lives.”

Portland Police Chief Jason Williams added, “We always appreciate recognition of the event that so deeply affected law enforcement, fire departments, first responders, military and the world in general. The display at Portland High School is a humbling reminder of how many lives and families were dramatically impacted on Sept. 11, 2001. I would like to thank the students, and staff, on behalf of the Portland Police Department, and personally, for taking the time to put together such an impactful memorial.”

Reach Chris Gregory at 615-450-5756 or cgregory@hartsvillevidette.com.

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