Vigil marks 9/11 anniversary

Vigil marks 9/11 anniversary

By Chris Estrada

On Monday evening, the Northeastern community paused to remember those lost on September 11, 2001 with a candlelight vigil on Krentzman Quad.

Against a backdrop of local police and fire officials and a constellation of tiny, bright flames from candles held by students, a number of speakers reflected on where the country stands five years from the day terrorists hijacked four planes and killed nearly 3,000 people at New York’s World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and a field in Shanksville, Penn.

The featured speaker was award-winning documentarian Ric Burns, creator of PBS’ eight-part series, “New York: A Documentary Film.” The final chapter of the series details the rise and fall of the World Trade Center. Burns talked about his experience during the creation of that segment, but also shared his thoughts on how the event is viewed half a decade later.

“So much has changed, of course, that for many of us, our sense of what life was like before that infinitely deep blue September day, and in some ways, our sense of time itself, has bent and refracted and seems to stretch away now into a strange, distorted distance from which we look back and try to gaze into the past before 9/11,” Burns said. “It’s as if half a century has passed and not half a decade of common time.”

Burns also said that, in his view, the wave of major motion pictures based on the attacks, such as “United 93” and “World Trade Center,” have revealed a “9/11 kitsch.” He finished by talking about the lessons the day taught all Americans.

“If there is any virtue to be learned from seeing that horrible thing, it was that of course, nothing is permanent,” he said. “Everything only lasts for a very brief time. We must value and cherish every moment, every person, every action, every creation. Because outside that is darkness and the abyss.”

The ceremony began with a short musical tribute and an opening prayer from Director of Spiritual Life Shelli Jankowski-Smith, followed by Student Government Association (SGA) President Rogan O’Handley, who talked about those who rushed into the towers to save lives and the sacrifices they made.

“They had never met who they tried to save, but that day, they put their lives on the line for their fellow Americans,” O’Handley said. “As a university, a community and a nation, we remember those who died on that tragic day and we will never forget those New York policemen and firefighters who perished.”

College Republicans President Dave Moberg and Northeastern Democrats President Josh Robin stressed that all Americans should return to being united as one nation in order to make sure September 11 is never repeated.

“We must come together … to keep the nation safe so another 9/11 will never happen again,” Robin said.

Moberg echoed his counterpart, saying, “We can and will triumph in this global struggle, but only if we are united.”

A clip of Burns’ documentary chapter on the World Trade Center was shown. Instead of focusing on the attacks, Burns showed a clip of the film about French high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s 1974 walk across a 130-foot gap between the North and South towers – a moment when the towers became loved by New Yorkers following years of ridicule. Meant to show the towers in more peaceful times, the clip elicited several moments of laughter and smiles from the crowd. The ceremony then closed with a moment of silence, a performance of “Amazing Grace” by the Northeastern Downbeats and the single trumpet playing Taps.

SGA Vice President for Administration and Public Relations Krystal Beaulieu said the organization, along with other groups such as the Resident Student Association and the Kappa Sigma fraternity, wanted to make this fifth anniversary ceremony a special one.

“We wanted to make it bigger and better,” Beaulieu said. “We don’t know if it will be appropriate to do it in the sixth year or seventh year, so we’re going to feel it out for next year. This may be the last one, so we wanted to go out doing the best job we could.”

Nicole Rizio, a middler psychology major, said Burns’ take on the event was “very different on how September 11 has been looked at before.” Her uncle, who worked in one of the towers, survived the attacks.

“I think that personally, I’m changed,” Rizio said. “It’s made me a lot more interested in the world around me. I know, even coming back to school, I’m taking Islam classes now … I think, looking at the country, I felt that for a while, we were a lot closer. Now everything is so important that people are splitting off more. I think tonight’s ceremony kind of touched upon that and made everyone think about it again.”

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