AU community gathers for virtual 9/11 vigil

Speakers highlight the importance of educating younger generations in the lessons learned since the 2001 attacks

AU community gathers for virtual 9/11 vigil
Students gathered Friday morning to place hundreds of flags on the AU quad in what's become a traditional 9/11 memorial over the years.

For the first time in 19 years, American University community members didn’t gather for an in-person vigil on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon.

Instead, 20 students, faculty and staff assembled virtually for a vigil co-hosted by AU Student Government, College Republicans and College Democrats. 

AU faculty member Anita McBride, who served as assistant to President George W. Bush, and other speakers highlighted the necessity of teaching younger generations the lessons learned from 9/11, especially as most of this year’s freshmen class are the first to have been born largely after the attacks. 

Others, including Vice President of Campus Life and Inclusive Excellence Fanta Aw, stressed the importance of sticking together and staying true to each other, even as events normally conducted in-person have become limited due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Aw asked attendees to never forget the sacrifice and bravery of those who died on 9/11, and to never stop supporting and honoring their families and loved ones, who are still grieving almost two decades after the attacks that left nearly 3,000 people dead. 

“Tomorrow is never promised, so make sure you live today as if it is your last day,” Aw said. 

McBride and Aw recounted their memories of the day’s events, one from the White House, the other from AU’s campus. 

McBride recalled being evacuated from the White House after the Pentagon was hit, then standing in Lafayette Park, bewildered and surrounded by dozens of other senior staffers. She brought them to her husband’s nearby offices, and 72 of them spent the day doing everything they could to assist the rest of the government — speech writing, legislative coordination and anything else. 

“Americans stood up to do whatever they could,” McBride said. “We’re so divided as a nation now, we must think of those examples: the fact that even after such an act of anger, we responded and persevered.”

Jeremy Ward, the president of College Democrats; Katy Selinger, the president of College Republicans; and Schanelle Saldanha, the vice president of AUSG, also spoke. They encouraged their peers to work together and honor the memory of the AU community members who died in the attacks. 

The vigil was concluded by a prayer led by AU Catholics chaplain Lucas Laborde, who asked that the memorial renew the community’s commitment to the best ideals of the nation. 

“Heal these painful memories,” Laborde said. “Do not let them foster anger or hopelessness. Bring about reconciliation and understanding in our world.” 

Never miss a story

Get our weekly newsletter delivered right to your inbox.

More from The Eagle