University gathers to honor anniversary of 9/11

As of Sunday morning, it has been 21 years since two planes struck the World Trade Center at 8:46 and 9:03 a.m. In a continuation of university tradition, community members gathered on the morning of Sept. 8 to hold an early remembrance ceremony for all that was lost, and how far we have come since the tragic incident.

Every year, the Undergraduate Student Government Association (USGA) organizes a memorial ceremony in honor of 9/11. This year’s president, Saniyah Brinney, gave the opening remarks following a moment of silence for the lives lost 21 Septembers ago.

The university’s color guard marched in with the flags of the military branches, which was then followed by a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Throughout the morning, Brinney introduced a number of speakers from the university who took to the podium. The first speaker to tell their story was Martin O’Connor, campus chaplain and assistant chair of criminal justice.

“There are times, and there are events and there are people that change us and our world,” O’Connor said, standing before the crowd gathered across the Maxcy Quad as he led into the impact of the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

In part of his monologue, O’Connor spoke on the present-day role of those within the community, saying, “We gather for a few minutes in the midst of all that is going on in our world and in each of our lives and we pause to remember, and to commit ourselves to honoring the memory of so many lives lost; so many lives changed on that most cruel of days.”

Nearing the closure of his speech, he said, “21 years ago we found solace and support in each other’s company, and today we do the same,” before the microphone was then passed back to Brinney.

In her own time on the podium, standing between the Connecticut and U.S. flags, she spoke on how despite her generation not having direct memories from the events, the impact of the tragedy still carried through to them.

Brinney also spoke on the pride and admiration she has for her peers that are part of first responder studies, activities and leadership.

“Having this annual ceremony also gives me pride,” she said, “because it shows that our university will never forget and will always be the strong, supportive Charger family as we all know it to be.”

Interim President Sheahon Zenger succeeded Brinney with his own anecdotal account of 9/11, which he experienced from Kansas.

He said that even from 1,200 miles away, his community gathered to light candles and host a vigil for a community on the other end of the country.

Zenger said that after joining the community at the University of New Haven, being present for the annual memorial ceremony and hearing the anecdotes presented in his first years here, “it became clear to me that I could not ever grasp from 1,200 miles away what those of you who lived here experienced on that day, and the days that followed.”

Zenger considered this memorial ceremony one of the best traditions at the university, and voiced hopes that it would not stop in coming years.

Interim Provost Nancy Savage was the last from the staff and faculty to speak, in which she reflected on the dark times that followed the tragedy, the need for motions towards increased safety after it and ended with the value of university programs which promoted dedicated work for the betterment of the country.

The presidents of both criminal justice Recognized Student Organizations on campus had their times at the podium, the first being American Criminal Justice Association President Destini Craven.

She called the attack a “pivotal point, not only in national history, but in world history,” before proceeding to speak on the growth, development and unison of national forces on all levels working to strengthen the country’s national security.

“These students have an overwhelming desire to protect, honor and serve our control to the best of their ability,” Craven said about those who pursue involvement in any branches of national security.

Representing a younger organization, Critical Criminal Justice Association President Kira Litchblau spoke about the “unthinkable attack” on U.S. soil.

“The sense of gratitude to our first responders: firefighters, police officers and military personnel, is not something that can be quantified,” she said. “We continue to be thankful for their daily sacrifice for our country.”

“Today, we are so much more than the scars of the past,” said Litchblau in closing, “We are a nation of people united in our resolve, to band together and support one another in all of our endeavors.”

USGA Senator for First Responder Students Devin Robenolt followed, and spoke as an active first responder on the impact that he found surrounding the day’s events. Robenolt said that even though he was seven days old when the Twin Towers fell, “this day alone had affected my decision greatly” when reflecting on his motives to become a firefighter,

Trevor Holmes also stood before the crowd as president of the Fire Science Club. He gave another speech on the value of memorializing the lives lost on 9/11. He gave specific mention to those who died in the Pentagon and on Flight 93.

Members from the university’s marching band played a rendition of “Amazing Grace” before the gathering relocated to the memorial tree behind the Charger statue. Here, members of the community took turns placing American flags around the tree and memorial plaque, completing the memorial ceremony with a garden of flags waving in the Connecticut wind.