The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 have defined the past 20 years of world history. They revealed shortcomings in the United States’ intelligence community, ignited conflicts which remain ongoing and led to the passage of legislation that normalized mass government surveillance of American citizens. It is important that we take time each year to reflect upon the 9/11 attacks, both to honor the 2,977 people who directly lost their lives — as well as those who have died in the resulting War on Terror — and to recognize the historical significance of the day.
This year will mark the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. We are the first generation of Americans to have grown up under the shadow 9/11 cast over the United States. Thus, our perception of the attacks is vastly different than that of our parents and those who witnessed the towers fall, live on national television. It is difficult to imagine the emotions previous generations felt while watching these events unfold. It is said that the country experienced an increased sense of togetherness and community, while simultaneously harboring misplaced hostility toward Arab and Muslim people in general.
University of Connecticut students at the time were among those who watched the news coverage of the attacks. On the evening of Sept. 12, 2001, UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government organized a candlelight vigil on the Student Union Mall to commemorate the victims of the attack. Approximately 3,000 students, faculty and staff were in attendance.
Chris Hattayer, USG President at the time, gave a speech pertaining to the importance of recognizing the community of the human race. The flame was passed among the crowd until all of their candles were lit. They then stood and collectively sang renderings of “Imagine,” “America the Beautiful,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” “Amazing Grace,” “Kumbaya” and “Lean on Me.”
UConn Health has made a tradition of holding an annual remembrance ceremony in honor of the victims of the 9/11 attacks. UConn Police Officer Susan Kassey runs the event every year. In 2020, the speakers gathered in the Academic Rotunda at UConn Health and livestreamed the event due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some speakers at the event included UConn Health CEO and current UConn Interim President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi, and then-Connecticut State Sen. Gennaro Bizzarro. Officer Kassey also read an original poem.
This year, on Sept. 8, the University of Connecticut Office of Veteran Affairs and Military Programs hosted a 9/11 Tower Challenge. Participants gathered at the Sherman Family Sports Complex to walk 2,071 stairs in honor of the people who travelled across the 110 stories of the World Trade Center.
This year, on Sept. 11, 2021, uKindness will be hosting a day of remembrance on the Storrs Campus. UConn Public Safety will hold a remembrance ceremony at the Public Safety Complex at 8:30 a.m. Additionally, the Student Union will be hosting the Field of Flags event on Fairfield Way with the placement of 3,000 flags. Four wreaths will be on display at the Student Union, symbolizing the four downed planes. At dusk, UConn Recreation will illuminate the Student Rec Center in red, white and blue.
With the recent collapse of the Western-backed Afghan government and the seizure of the country by the Taliban, the American people have once again been reminded of the lingering effects of the 9/11 attacks. Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, was seized by Taliban forces on Aug. 15,, leaving Hamid Karzai International Airport (protected by NATO forces) as the only evacuation route not controlled by the Taliban. Between Aug. 14 and 25, the United States evacuated 82,300 people via the airport. Among them were American citizens and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants.