Participants in the ceremony vowed to continue the legacy of those who died in the terrorist attacks.
By Nick Erickson
The George Washington University community gathered Friday to not only commemorate the 20th anniversary of the devastating Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States, but also to further emphasize a commitment to selflessness.
President Thomas LeBlanc said that while it is impossible to fully understand others’ personal sacrifices and loss, including the nine GW alumni killed on that darkest of September days, it is important to find ways to offer support and make a difference.
“Today and every day, we honor the memories of our nine alumni and all the heroes of 9/11 and throughout the past 20 years by redoubling our efforts to have a positive impact on this world, and to live in service of others,” he said.
This year’s milestone anniversary comes on the heels of the United States withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, where they were stationed since October 2001 largely in response to the Sept. 11 attacks.
Friday’s remembrance took place with the wounds and hurt of the Kabul airport bombing just 15 days earlier on Aug. 26 still fresh. While the blast that killed 13 U.S. servicemembers and dozens of Afghan civilians offered a painful reminder that terror can strike at any time, speakers at the ceremony in University Yard encouraged attendees to continue living with grace, compassion and a willingness to help.
Keynote speaker Jared Lyon, president of Student Veterans of America, said the recent scenes from Afghanistan have made him reflect on the sacrifice from veterans, service members, military families, survivors, caregivers, allies and supporters.
Mr. Lyon called on the need to come together as one, just as the country showed in the immediate aftermath of the tragedies in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania 20 years ago.
“Some of the greatest comforts are in the company of those who understand, those who seek to understand and also those who grieve or know grief themselves,” he said. “No one is alone in all of this.”
That includes all those in need, as Mr. Lyon advocated for the welcoming and supporting of Afghan allies and refugees. People are at their strongest, he said, when they live and work in unison.
“I urge each of you to leave everything you see and everyone you come in contact with just a little bit better than you found them,” Mr. Lyon said. “Do this, and we will honor those we lost. And we will never forget.”
While many GW students were either young or not yet born on Sept. 11, 2001, Student Association Vice President and junior political communications major Kate Carpenter said she and the rest of the student body have a responsibility to continue the sentiments of perseverance and unity.
“Understanding how the events surrounding 9/11 spurred a sentiment of solidarity within our country, we as a student body must continue the legacy of those lives that were lost,” Ms. Carpenter said.
GW once again partook in the National Day of Service and Remembrance on Saturday, working on civic engagement projects around the community to symbolize togetherness.
Throughout the weekend, the GW community tied 2,996 ribbons for each of the lives lost on September 11, 2001. Nine flags representing the GW alums who died that day held up those ribbons.
“I'm grateful that you have matriculated at a university that not only remembers the attacks,” Mr. Lyon said, “but continues to celebrate the heroes who selflessly responded to them and for their families.”