As people across the country prepare to mark the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, UND held its memorial a day early, and rededicated a pair of plaques and a tree, first commissioned in 2001.
The memorial ceremony began at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 9, following a color guard procession made up of members of UND’s Reserve Officer Training Corps, and a moment of silence.
UND President Andrew Armacost and members of UND’s student government addressed the group of people gathered for the ceremony, some wearing UND colors, some military uniforms and some in plain clothes. They spoke about their memories of the day, and growing up in the aftermath of it.
“Today on the 20th anniversary, we must allow ourselves to reflect on that day,” Armacost said. “We must remember the loss of innocent lives, the physical destruction of iconic structures that, incidentally, held people, and the long term impact that day had on the emotional, mental and physical health of those who survived.”
Armacost said he recalls the images broadcast on television that day, and the sky, eerily quiet and devoid of air traffic, save for patrolling military aircraft. He encouraged people to reflect on that day, and the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the attacks. If possible, he said, people should try to go to memorials at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, places he has had the opportunity to visit, to preserve memories of that day.
“They serve as a reminder of the impact of radicalism and terrorism, of lives lost and of the endurance of the human spirit,” Armacost said.
Speaking before Armacost was UND Student Body President Kaelan Reedy, who said he was three years old at the time of the attacks, and has no such memories. He learned about 9/11 through the impacts on his family members, the tight security at airports and each year in school, around the anniversary of the attacks. The effect of the attacks resonate locally and nationally, and should not be forgotten, Reedy said.
“The impact that these attacks had on our country, even as far away as Grand Forks, North Dakota, cannot be understated, and they're worth remembering 20 years later,” Reedy said.
While memories of that day 20 years ago may be ingrained in those old enough to remember -- Armacost told the Herald he had just finished putting on his U.S. Air Force uniform that day -- Reedy and Dawson Dutchak, UND’s student body vice president, have birthdays that make thinking about 9/11 unavoidable. Reedy’s birthday falls on Sept. 10, while Dutchak’s is on the anniversary of the attacks.
Like Reedy, Dutchak said he has no memory of that day, as he was two years old in 2001. But it doesn’t take a memory of the day to understand its impact on the nation, he said. He has seen it in his family members, in his schools and in the “nationwide reverence” given to 9/11.
Dutchak then re-dedicated a pair of plaques in concrete blocks first donated by the UND student government of 2001-2002. One commemorates people who have served to protect the country, and the other identifies a tree, planted in 2001 in honor of those who lost their lives on 9/11. The original tree became infected by a sickness that plagued other trees on campus, and on Friday a new tree was dedicated in its palace. The blocks and tree will be incorporated on the grounds of UND’s new Memorial Union, a place they previously occupied.
UND ROTC members honored to participate
The color guard at the 9/11 memorial was made up of four members of UND’s ROTC program. Carrying rifles and flanking a pair of Air Force ROTC cadets, were Isaac Yatzeck, a junior, and sophomore Caleb Hill.
“It's a great honor,” said Yatzeck. “We're representing the United States and we're honoring those who passed away on 9/11.”
Carrying the American flag was Air Force cadet Michael Kurtz, a sophomore, who said he was not born on 9/11. He said his participation was about honoring sacrifices made on 9/11 and since then.
“They keep us going every day,” Kurtz said.
Added sophomore Sarah Vigevani, carrying the state flag of North Dakota: “It's really a great honor to be out here and get that representation, it’s great to remember those that we lost on 9/11.”