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September 11th: 13 Years Changed

Never had Arkadelphia, Arkansas seen a sky more blue, or a day more beautiful.  Crossing the serene campus of Henderson State University for an early morning music theory class, I nor any of my peers had even a clue of what was to happen that morning.

After class, I visited with friends for just a minute, and then wandered to the student center.  That’s when the first news report caught my eye.  I stared at the monitor confused and fascinated, thinking that this was so surreal it could only be a movie.  I started watching when the first tower collapsed, and was paralyzed in below the screen until seeing the second tower meet the same fate.  Among the group of students around me, you could feel the shock sear through us as we all came to the realization… America was under attack.  Though we were over 1,000 miles from any of the crash sites, I kept thinking about how Arkadelphia and the East Coast started the day with those same crystal clear blue skies.  Only for those in New York, Washington, D.C. and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, their skies suddenly became filled with terror and complete uncertainty.  Here’s NBC news coverage of that day…

On September 11th, 2001, the United States of America changed.  In fact the whole world changed.  Many of us that remember that day will never process “safety” the same way again.  And of course for those of us personally affected with the loss of loved ones, 9-11 can’t even be put accurately into words.

But even if words fail and the pain still endures, September 11th is too important a day to ignore.  Commemorative events are being held across the nation today, including the city of Houston.  On the University of Houston campus stands one such commemoration… a beam from the World Trade Center in New York.  Here’s more on the memorial and today’s events from Mike Emery of UH News

Each day, members of the University of Houston community can reflect on this infamous day and pay tribute to those who lost their lives by visiting the UH World Trade Center Memorial and Reflection Garden – just outside of the south entrance of the New University Center (UC). The permanent memorial – obtained through a student campaign – contains a massive steel beam from the World Trade Center building that was destroyed by terrorists.

Community members will surely visit this campus site during this week’s 13th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people. To further pay tribute to those who lost their lives, as well as their surviving loved ones, the New UC will host several events and activities.

From 8 a.m. – 10 p.m., 9/11 photo exhibition will be on view in the hallway next to the UC Theater. At 4 p.m. in the theater, retired Marines Col. William Wiggins will share his military experiences following 9/11. Following Wiggins’ presentation, the theater will host a screening of the film “United 93,” which depicts the fate of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed into a field in Stonycreek, Pennsylvania. All events are free and open to the public.

For many life events, thirteen years can sometimes seem pretty far removed.  September 11th is different… woven into the fabric of the nation.  The ripple effect of that day has resulted in the loss of thousands more lives in Iraq and Afghanistan, and potentially more as we face growing threats from ISIS.  It is certain that we will never forget.  Facing new challenges, let’s that we have not only changed, but also learned.

9-11 UH5

(This permanent World Trade Center Memorial at the University of Houston is free and open to the public)

University of Houston Building Special 9/11 Memorial

For those of us alive in 2001, September 11th is a day that few Americans will probably ever forget. I’m someone that misplaces my keys and phone on a regular basis, but the events of 9/11 are still crystal clear in my mind. In the span of a few short hours, our country would never be the same.

Houston is over a thousand miles away from Shanksville, Washington or New York City, but some University of Houston students took it upon themselves to create a special 9/11 memorial for the campus. Here’s more from Laura Gillespie of the Daily Cougar

“Back in 2009, the president at the time was Kenneth Fomunung. A student came up to him from the Student Video Network and said, ‘Hey, I heard we can get a piece of the World Trade Center. I heard that they’re giving them out to different organizations and things of that nature. You should look in to it,’” said SGA President Cedric Bandoh.

“Long story short, they applied for a piece in the New Jersey Port Authority, and after going through a series of paperwork and other things, they got the assistance of the then-vice president of Student Affairs, Dr. Elwyn Lee. And we were eventually approved for a piece of the World Trade Center, which was very, very exciting news.”

The artifact, a large piece of steel that was broken off during the September 11 attacks, will be raised and lighted and turned into a memorial at the New UC.

“The Student Government Association really led the effort. They wanted to have it as a site of history, of the country, and also they wanted it to take place adjacent to a large student traffic area so that it’s just a memorial of sorts that represents the history of our country,” said Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Keith Kowalka.

In the midst of a rapidly changing campus, it’s welcomed news that UH students took the initiative to honor such an important event in our history. Sounds like this will be worth a visit.

(photo credit: Keith Kowalka)