Eastern honors lives lost on 9/11


Corryn Brock

Blake Leitch, a veterans service officer, gives a speech during the 9/11 memorial in 2018. His speech encouraged connecting with others after times of tragedy.

Brooke Schwartz, News Editor

Yesterday marked the 17 anniversary of the attacks of 9/11, and Eastern honored the day by having a memorial service in the Library Quad.

The service included the planting of 200 American flags and a wreath, as well as a speech from Veterans Service Officer Blake Leitch.

Leitch’s speech centered around a theme of connectedness after tragedy.

““We’re trying move forward from what we’ve learned in the past, and knowing that (knowledge) should be uniting us, not separating us,” Leitch said.

Tanya Willard, the director of the military student assistance center, said she clearly remembers 17 years ago when she first heard about the attacks.

She said she was in her office at her then job at Emory University when her coworker said something about the planes hitting.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well that can’t be possible. This does not happen here.’ (My coworker) started saying, ‘Well I think it was terrorism,’ and I was like, ‘What are you talking about? We don’t have terrorists here,” she said. “It was such a foreign concept to me at the time that something like this could ever happen.”

Lou Soltysiak, a first year graduate student studying college student affairs, said every generation is remembering less and less of this day.

“We’re getting to a point where college students now are so young that they might not remember themselves,” he said. “It’s important to make sure that they understand why it happened and the emotional significance of it.”

Caitlyn Gastfield, a first-year graduate student studying college student affairs, said students without a memory of the actual event should study it as much as they can.

“Really take some time and learn about it, even if you weren’t there or you don’t remember it, it’s important to educate yourself,” she said.

Leitch said studying the event, for those who have no memory of it, helps stop the possible repeat of history.

“Just because you don’t remember it occurring, remembering what we’ve learned from it and how we became a better nation because of it,” he said.

Willard also said it’s important for students to try and comprehend how much the world changed after the first plane hit.

“I want students to understand that on this particular day 17 years ago, the world as we knew it completely changed. I know that’s really hard for students that weren’t born yet or who were really little to understand the complete shift that happened,” she said. “I want them to acknowledge and remember the people who sacrificed their lives on that day.”

Alec Baumgartner, a second-year graduate student studying technology, said nothing has been the same since.

“(The attacks) really changed the world and how we view things today,” he said. “It feels like (everything) changed in an instant and this country hasn’t been the same since.”

Leitch said the way to start moving forward is to start making acquaintances with our neighbors.

“We must start making new connections. Look around this campus, we have no excuse to not make a new friend from a different culture,” he said. “You’re at college, make yourself uncomfortable. Learn something new.”

Gastfield said the attacks affected everyone, no matter who you are or where you’re from.

“I think it’s important to remember that, while it might not have affected you personally, it had a ripple effect to everyone around us,” she said. “You might not have been there that day or been alive that day, it’s important to remember that people lost their lives to protect us and our future.”

Cierra Howard, a first-year graduate student studying early childhood administration, said Sept. 11 is a day to commemorate and mourn.

“It’s just a day you always remember, but particularly on (Sept. 11), you remember all those lives that were lost due to something that was out of their control,” she said.

Willard said the anniversary of the tragedy is one to honor the lives of those who were lost.

“It’s really important for us to remember this day and to remember the first-responders and those who were involved in being first on the scene,” she said. “I think we need to do that however it’s appropriate, whether that’s placing flags, having a moment of silence, or whatever that is.”

Brooke Schwartz can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].