9/11: A Campus Stops to Reflect and Remember
On September 11, 2011, Claremont McKenna College students stopped to reflect and remember the horrific events that took place on this day ten years ago. Dozens of students gathered outside of Collins Dining Hall and planted a flag in honor of each victim of the September 11th tragedy. 2,996 American flags stood tall alongside the path leading to McKenna Auditorium and the Athenaeum. Some planted flags in memory of lost loved ones, others to commemorate a day that changed every individual, the nation, and the world forever. Students showed their support by planting flags to spell out "USA" and "9/11" while others created a peace symbol using the tiny flags.
This was not the first time American Flags covered that section of grass. Heidi Wolfgruber (CMC '11) began the tradition last year for the 9th anniversary of 9/11. As a freshman, Wolfgruber recalls her astonishment at the lack of events in Claremont to remember the tragedy of September 11th. "As someone who was greatly affected by the tragedy," says Wolfgruber, "it was important to me that the individuals who lost their lives be honored across the country, and not just where the events occurred." Soon after, Wolfgruber began working with Voices of September 11th, a non-profit organization that began almost immediately after the tragedy in 2001. The organization became known as a grassroots advocacy group and information clearinghouse for the 9/11 community. Mary Fetchet, one of the organization's founders, advocated for an official investigation of the attacks and helped in the creation of the 9/11 final report. Aside from her advocacy work, Fetchet used Voices as a haven for victims' families, providing them with necessary support and working with them to compile more than 60,000 pictures and stories about individual victims for the 9/11 Living Memorial. Among the voices was that of her son in his last voicemail from the tower.
Aside from assisting with fundraisers, Wolfgruber was in charge of creating a program for colleges to conduct on September 11th to honor all the lives lost. "In my last year at Claremont," says Wolfgruber, "I held the Flag Ceremony, allowing students to plant a flag to remember each of the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11th." East coast schools like Bucknell University and Fairfield University have participated in the program but no west coast school had yet to put on the event.
This year, Emma Jones (CMC '12) planned the memorial with help from Meredith Reisfield (CMC '13), Katie Bilotti (CMC '12), and Mary Doyle (CMC '12).
Patriotism filled CMC's hallways and corridors. Students draped American flags outside of dorm rooms and over balconies. Some played Darryl Worley's song "Have You Forgotten?" as a tribute. Others reflected in somber silence, contemplating the tragic events and their far-reaching effects.
The flag planting tradition will continue on next September as CMC students hold true to their pledge to never forget that tragic day. Reisfield is in charge of the memorial next year. The flags will stay outside of Collins for a few days. Dean Nauls, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Activities, will hang on to the flags until next year.
"It is an event that allows people to not only reflect on that day and the lives lost, but the unity that emerged from it and how far we have come," says Wolfgruber. "It is an event that I hope will continue at Claremont for years and years to come."