Officials and student leaders commemorated the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks during a memorial service at University Yard Friday.
University President Thomas LeBlanc and Student Veterans of America CEO Jared Lyon reflected on the sacrifices of first responders during 9/11 while honoring alumni, victims and “unsung heroes” whose lives were lost 20 years ago. Student Association Vice President Kate Carpenter and Michael Notaro, the president of GW Veterans, honored the alumni lost that day and initiated a ribbon-tying ceremony for the victims of the attacks.
LeBlanc said it’s “impossible” to fully understand the pain felt by families across the country who lost a loved one in the terror attacks, but the University will continue to commemorate those lost with its annual Day of Service and Remembrance event, which pays tribute to those killed and injured on 9/11 through service projects.
“Today and every day we honor the memories of our time – 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.
Lyon said even though people sought to destroy America’s “humanity” through the terrorist attacks, Americans were able to stand ready to respond to the tragic events and maintain the nation’s resolve. He said because of their connection to 9/11, Student Veterans of America has helped evacuate Afghan refugees and allies after the United States pulled its troops from Afghanistan nearly 20 years following their deployment in the wake of 9/11.
“As a veteran organization comprised primarily of post-9/11 veterans, SVA is committed to welcoming and supporting our Afghan allies and refugees once they arrive here in America,” he said.
Carpenter said although the student body may have been too young to remember the day, students must continue the embodiment of perseverance and unity, which were exemplified through 9/11 as the nation moved forward together. She read the names of the nine alumni who passed away in the attacks — Sara Clark, Andrew Friedman, Melissa Harrington Hughes, Robert Mace, John O’Neill, Todd Reuben, John Sammartino, Andrew Stergiopoulos and James Waters Jr.
“The devastating events of September 11, 2001 had a profound impact on everyone in this country, this world and the GW community,” Carpenter said. “To those in the GW community that lost loved ones, community leaders and close friends, we offer you our support.”
Notaro said GW Veterans organized a ribbon-tying campaign, where people can tie 2,996 ribbons in University Yard to represent each person who lost their life during the attacks. He said nine flags will also hold up the ribbons to commemorate the nine alumni who also passed away.
Notaro, who grew up outside New York City and was seven years old on 9/11, said he grew up with a community made up of several police officers and firefighters, and several were lost because of the attacks.
“We all knew someone who lost their lives that day, whether it was a family member, a neighbor or relative, a friend,” he said.