Tuesday, Sept. 11 will mark the 11th anniversary of the brutal terrorist attacks on New York’s Twin Towers, and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. It is also the 11th anniversary of the death of a civilian employee of the Department of Defense, Marjorie Champion Salamone, who was at working at her desk in the Pentagon the morning of that attack.
Salamone grew up in Pine Mountain, went to Rosemont Elementary School and graduated early, with outstanding marks, from Troup County Comprehensive High School. She went on to study engineering at Auburn University, and graduated, earning a bachelor’s degree with honors in textile chemistry and a master’s degree in textile science.
In September 2001, Salamone lived with her husband, Ben, a retired Army colonel, and her two daughters, Amanda and Ann Marie. The family lived in Washington D.C. and she worked at the Pentagon. Salamone’s parents, Hubert and Lillian still lived in Pine Mountain.
Salamone’s death was devastating to her family and friends. Lillian Champion, Salamone’s mother, thinks and prays for her daughter everyday, but does find a measure of comfort in the many ways that Salamone’s family and friends have found to honor her memory.
Marjorie Champion Salamone’s name has been included in both national and local 9/11 memorial monuments. She is included in the Pentagon Memorial Park where besides having a huge five-sided stone bearing each of the victims’ names, each victim also has a beautifully sculptured bench dedicated to their memory. At Fort Benning, a larger-than-life sized metal eagle clutches a piece of stone that was part of the side of the shattered Pentagon building. Salamone’s name is included in the list of individuals who are honored at that memorial. At Auburn University there is a permanent plaque that honors Salamone. In Pine Mountain, across from the town’s post office, Salamone is remembered by a plaque that is part of the town’s brick memorial. At Rosemont Elementary School a beautiful Dogwood tree, planted in memory of Salamone, thrives in the school’s front yard. Annual scholarships are also given to honor the memory of Salamone.
When Salamone had graduated from Troup County Comprehensive High School, she was given a four-year scholarship from the Fuller E. Callaway Foundation. Beyond the monetary aspect of the award, the idea that people had such confidence in her character and accomplishments was what Salamone really valued. Since May 2002, Marjorie Champion Salamone’s character and accomplishments are still being honored through the memorial scholarship that is given in her name each year at Troup High School.
This scholarship is perhaps one of the most important ways that Lillian Champion continues to keep her daughter’s memory alive . To date, 11 young women have been so honored.
At the time of the tragedy, Susan Elizabeth Braik was a junior at Troup High School. She vividly remembers the imagery of the planes crashing into the building and the terrible aftermath that affected all of America. She also remembers reading about how Marjorie Champion Salamone, a former graduate of Troup High, was one of the many Pentagon victims. Braik never imagined that a year later, at her graduation, the Champion family would be, in a very meaningful way, passing the legacy of their remarkable daughter on to her. Braik was the second recipient of the Marjorie Champion Salamone Memorial scholarship.
Now, married just a little over a year, Susan Braik Taunton lives in California where she is finishing her degree in dentistry, still remembers what receiving that scholarship meant to her.
“I was so surprised, I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Taunton said over a recent phone conversation.
“One of the highest compliments you could be given is to have someone invest in you, invest in your education,” she said. Taunton also remembered that when she had thanked the Champions that day, how much it meant to her when they told her how she reminded them of their own dear daughter. After her graduation, Taunton and her husband, Will, plan to move back to the LaGrange area.
Lillian Champion still lives in Pine Mountain and treasures all of the letters and thank you notes she has received from the young women who have been encouraged by receiving her daughter’s memorial scholarships. Champion keeps a picture of her daughter right above her computer, which she uses to keep in contact with family members both by Skype and Facebook. Marjorie’s daughters now are grown and have families of their own and like their grandmother, they are very proud of how their mother’s memory is honored and kept alive in so many loving ways.
This Tuesday 9/11, at 7 PM, at Callaway Auditorium in LaGrange, the annual FREE concert will be held in honor of Marjorie Champion Salamone, a victim of 9/11 in the Pentagon. An hour-long program by area talented musicians and singers will be presented. The annual concert is under the direction of Margaret Ross and the LaGrange International Friendship Exchange.
Exchange students at LaGrange College along with area school and college students will perform. Singers will include Kevin Dunn, one of the outstanding vocalist of Troup County.