Nine years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks shook the nation, USF held a memorial service to honor the victims of that tragic day.
On Friday, the 9/11 Remembrance Service in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Amphitheater featured a range of guest speakers who reflected on the attacks.
On Sept. 11, 2001, terrorists crashed planes into the World Trade Centers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks not only affected those areas, but the entire nation.
Of the 2,819 people killed in the Trade Center attacks alone, 343 were firefighters and paramedics, 23 were New York Police Department officers and 37 were Port Authority police officers – citizens of 115 different countries lost their lives, according to the New York magazine.
Featured guest speakers at USF’s ceremony included Lt. Roger Picard of Tampa Fire Rescue and Juan Antonio Rivera, an employee in USF’s Office of Veterans Services and a former New Jersey police officer who provided security at an oil refinery and the George Washington Bridge following the attacks.
Picard, a search dog handler, said that after the attacks he was deployed from Miami to New York City as a member of the Federal Disaster Search and Rescue Team.
“I was reminded, though, by the children when I stepped off the bus, just how important this mission would be,” Picard said during his speech. “I could hear them whispering, ‘The search dogs are here, everything is going to be OK.'”
USF student body President Cesar Hernandez served as the memorial’s master of ceremonies and recalled his own experiences on 9/11.
“We saw the second plane hit (from the fourth floor window of my high school science class in Brooklyn, New York),” he said. “I remember looking at my classmates and looking at the professor – looking at her – just in confusion – because nobody had answers, nobody knew what to say.”
Lara McDermott, a senior majoring in criminology, said students should continue to take time during their day to remember.
“It’s important to take time out every year and remember because it has changed our world,” she said. “For better, for worse, we’ll never know – we’ll never know what the world would be like without 9/11. It’s something we should always reflect on, to pay respect to those who lost their lives and pay respect to those who continue to fight for the freedoms we enjoy.”
In 2009 the Campus Republicans, a USF student organization, staked nearly 3,000 miniature U.S. flags into the lawn outside of the MSC. That event served as the inspiration to have a public ceremony.
“That was kind of an inspiration that sparked us to start talking and having this conversation so that we could have a more public program where (others) could be involved as well,” said Edna Jones Miller, coordinator of student organizations.
USF has officially recognized this date in the past. In 2002, it held a flag ceremony in honor of the attacks.
During past ceremonies, the ROTC presented the colors and held a “remembrance vigil,” said Larry Braue, director of USF Veterans Services
“It’s not something I want to forget,” he said of the attacks. “It’s a bad event, but I don’t want to forget it. I think it’s important that we keep this day in remembrance.”
Aziz Talbani, director of USF’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, said this year’s ceremony represents an effort to make the observance an official annual event.
He said the department has yet to come up with ideas for next year but are “already thinking about it.”
Nakita Kiger, a freshman majoring in chemistry who attended the ceremony, said she was in fifth grade on the day of the attacks.
“It was an important event in history. A lot of people lost their lives, and it was a very sad time,” she said. “I remember when my dad potentially had to go up there because he’s a firefighter. I was a little worried about that. Of course, he didn’t end up going, but it’s just another reason to remember.”