September 11, 2001 undoubtedly changed the course of American history. Our sense of patriotism, our security procedures, our international relations and much of our culture has been irrevocably altered. On a basic human level, the effects are even more prevalent.
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart, less than a year ago, went to Capitol Hill to campaign for a reauthorization of the Zadroga Act which provides health care to all first responders who worked in the weeks following the event and still deal with the medical ailments as a result of that service.
West Chester University even has a significant connection to Sept. 11, with former Golden Ram Michael Horrocks. He was a co-pilot for United Flight 175, the plane that crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. In honor of his memory, a seven-foot statue of him as a quarterback was constructed in 2011.
On Sept. 11 this year at 8:30 p.m., people congregated on the front steps of the Sykes Student Union for the candlelight vigil. Opening with the national anthem sung by WCU student Kyleigh Bleacher, and quickly followed by several speakers, the ceremony was meant to examine as many perspectives of the event as possible.
Speakers included President of the Sykes Union Advisory Board Desiree Jackson, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Laurie Bernotsky, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Zebulon Davenport, Director of Sykes Student Union Dave Timmann, Borough of West Chester Mayor Carolyn Committa, Student Veterans Group and U.S. Navy Petty Officer serving 1998-2007 Heather Williams.
The ROTC Color Guard also made an appearance. For this 15th anniversary, Timmann wanted to make the ceremony special. Having worked here for 27 years, he has been directly involved in the planning of this ceremony since the beginning. He hopes that the ceremony will “keep the memory alive” for students too young to remember the events that took place.
Specifically, he hopes students take away “what it means to be a human in this world… We all have a connection, whether direct or indirect, and I just hope that connection stays with people.”
The preparation mainly stemmed from the Sykes Union Advisory Board and planning begins as early as the spring semester. Speech was a main feature in this vigil, as any students and faculty in attendance were invited up to the podium to speak about how 9/11 affected them personally.
Responses ranged from a student that grew up motivated to be a firefighter to a freshman reciting a poem she wrote for a class. All students were handed candles and passed along the flame as students, faculty and military members spoke about what 9/11 meant to them.
The evening was closed out with the musical number “Let There Be Peace on Earth” performed by Chester County’s Brandywine Singers, accompanied by members of WCU’s string quartet, The Transcendence Quartet.
Comitta, who had specifically recognized Michael Horrocks through a reading of a previous Quad article written by LJ Harrell, says that she “come[s] to this event every year [and that she] wouldn’t miss it.” She goes on to say that “when we come together and remember a tragedy, remember the courage, remember the bravery as well as the loss… and we’re able to share our loss as well as our resilience [and] our core values that we share as Americans. It’s uplifting, it gives us strength, it gives us courage when other tragedies happen.”
This candlelight vigil intended to give members of the West Chester University community a venue to discuss 9/11, and this is a tradition that the student union has determined will continue.
Different faces will likely appear to the ceremony next year that, in turn, will result in more students keeping the flame of the memory ignited for future generations.
Halle Nelson is a third-year student majoring in communication studies with minors in English literature and deaf studies. She can be contacted at HN824858@wcupa.edu.