PEMBROKE — Fifteen years after terrorist attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000, a generation of Americans has grown up with the idea that they should try to create something positive out of one of the nation’s worst tragedies.
With that in mind, students at The University of North Carolina Pembroke volunteered their time on Saturday as part of the 9/11 Day of Service and Remembrance at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center on Terry Sanders Drive near Pembroke. The 350-acre site has picnic areas, a swimming pool, a pond and an amphitheater.
“This goal of this day is to provide a positive way for students to pay tribute to the 9/11 victims and to those who died in service in response to the attacks,” said Taley Strickland, UNCP Student Service leader.
An estimated 300 UNCP students took part in the 9/11 Day of Service — many of whom spent hours volunteering at cultural center. Other students took part in projects in other spots in Pembroke and on campus.
Freda Porter, Lumbee tribal director, said the volunteer hours by students will make a difference in the tribe’s efforts to bring the cultural center back to where it once was — a thriving community center where families would go to swim in the pool, fish in the pond, golf and picnic.
The tribe regained control of the center after purchasing it back from the state in April 2014.
“Now the tribe owns it and its goal is to bring it back to its original purpose,” Porter said.
UNCP has partnered with the tribe to help fix up the center and as part of the agreement, students in its cross-country track program will train on its trails.
“We’ve also got a partnership with Campbell Soup where they are going to be paying for a community garden,” Porter said.
Porter said plans to reopen the golf course are on hold for now. The center has a flag pole and American flag with a plaque honoring American Indian military service members.
“Our servicemen and women, the Lumbees, are very dedicated to supporting our veterans,” Porter said. “It’s in support of all that we believe in. This is honoring the memory of the people who lost their lives on 9/11. Anytime you bring people together to make something positive out of something negative, such a tragic day, it’s a great thing. You put a positive memory back on a negative situation.”
John Oxendine, who chipping in, said it’s important to him that the center is restored and accessible to the entire community.
“It’s the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center but everybody is welcome to enjoy it — to have family gatherings, to have picnics, to have powwows — anything we can have out here for the community,” Oxendine said. “We realize as native people that we’ve got to live with everybody so we want it be a community center but we also want it to be a public place where everybody can get together.”
That the work is part of the observance of the 15th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the U.S. helps keep the memory alive of those who died that day, he said.
“We still can educate our kids on what happened, what our country went through,” Oxendine said. “We want this to be a time to give back just like they gave to us when they lost their lives that day.”
UNCP student Julia Harmon was among those helping clean up at the cultural center.
“It’s to give back to those who lost their families during 9/11,” Harmon said.
Jazneque Whyatt, also a UNCP student, had a couple of reasons to volunteer.
“My mom’s in the military so being able to give back to the community and all that they do for us is really, really important,” Whyatt said.
Whyatt is also a member of the UNCP track team.
“We’re all happy to be out here representing the university and giving back to the community in any way possible that we can,” Whyatt said.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.