It’s becoming increasingly challenging to explain the significance of the events of September 11, 2001, to secondary school students because none have first-hand memory of the terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
For the first time, some BJU freshmen were born after the infamous day that rocked the nation and briefly galvanized the globe.
The Class of 2023 has always known PayPal, facial recognition and The Amazing Race. But just as Pearl Harbor was for their grandparents and the Kennedy assassination was for their parents, 9/11 is history book material for the current crop of college freshmen. To them, post-9/11 America is simply America.
Arranging a Field of Flags
Last week, BJU students—including a healthy compliment just days into their college careers—took part in a 9/11 object lesson. To commemorate the 18th anniversary, they arranged 2,977 American flags—one for each life lost from 115 countries—in a display near the University’s main entrance on Wade Hampton Boulevard. The display will remain until September 12.
“I kind of always looked at it as a historical event because I’ve always liked history, but I had the opportunity to go to New York and to see the 9/11 memorial and to read the names and see the roses left for birthdays. I remember my whole group were standing there crying because it hit us that these were people our age who lost parents, they lost loved ones who are real people,” said freshman Miranda Chapman of Taylors, South Carolina.
“Sometimes it’s easy to say why are we still putting out flags, why are we still putting up memorials? That’s because real people lost their lives.”
Added Oliyshia Carrow of Richmond, Maine: “A lot of people my age don’t realize the impact that the terrorist attacks left on our country. They just know it as a news event rather than the lives that were lost and the significance of it. I just went to Ground Zero for my senior trip and saw the memorial and it left an imprint on my heart. It felt important to serve in this way. Every man in my family has served in the military—on my dad’s and my mom’s side. I just wanted to come serve and help raise awareness.”
Standing Strong in the Center
At the center of the field of flags is a replica of the World Trade Center cross. Additionally, a section of a steel girder from the North Tower is on display in the lobby of the Welcome Center through September 12.
The original 20-foot steel crossbeam, which stood out in the smoldering rubble of 6 World Trade Center, was a source of hope in the weeks following the terrorist attacks. It is on display at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City.
“I was 5 months old at the time, but as an American, I can come together with others behind this cause and put out the flags in remembrance. The impacts of 9/11 are still seen all over America and touching us still today,” said Benaiah Henry of Cordova, Tennessee.
That’s true around the world.
“My parents are missionaries in Jordan and my dad was visiting the Middle East right before 9/11, and he just got more burdened after 9/11 to witness to the people would have a desire to do anything like this to our country and witness to them. It’s a big part of my life,” said Abigail Daab of Jordan.
Said Rachel Durrette of Henrico, Virginia: “It’s impacted me because I have family in the military; my dad has been deployed and my brother is currently serving in Kuwait.”
September 11 Film, Ceremonies
The University will show the PBS documentary 9/11: Inside the Pentagon on September 11 in Levinson Hall. The one-hour program—which features eyewitness accounts—will be looped continuously from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. American flags on campus will be at half-staff until sunset.
Multiple ceremonies will be held the morning of September 11 at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, along with the other sites impacted by the terrorist attacks.
September 11 is also National Day of Service and Remembrance, which calls for Americans to volunteer in their communities as an enduring tribute to individuals who perished or were injured, including first responders and recovery workers, and others who rose in response to the attacks.
“Mostly everything we’ve seen has been video of all the news feeds, but it is a moment when our entire country was brought together as one,” said Tyler Graham of Glendale, Arizona. “It’s something that we haven’t really seen since then, and it’s good to not only remember the victims but also how (terrorists) tried to tear our country apart and yet the end result was bringing us closer together as a people.”