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Never Forget

Published on September 10, 2021

Never Forget

Eastern remembers 9/11 on 20-year anniversary

Members of the campus community gather around Eastern's 9/11 memorial tree.

Twin Towers in New York City

More than 100 members of the Eastern Connecticut State University community gathered on Friday, Sept. 10, in remembrance of the terrorist attacks that occurred 20 years ago on Sept. 11, 2001. Students, faculty and staff congregated at the University’s 9/11 memorial tree outside of Gelsi Young Hall to hear remarks and reflections by Eastern students and officials.

“We are holding today’s service not only to remember and honor the 3,000 people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “We are also here to make sure that today’s students, most of whom were not born yet or were too young to remember 9/11, understand the impact of that day on our nation.”

Nathan Fontaine
Student Natan Fontaine, SGA president 

The ceremony opened with remarks by student Nathan Fontaine, president of the Student Government Association (SGA). “I wasn’t old enough on September 11, 2001, to be able to tell you where I was or what I was doing. I was not watching the television or seeing the horrific images that my parents and their friends had to witness and endure 20 years ago. 

“But I certainly have seen the photographs of the World Trade Center in flames, the people on the streets of New York covered in ashes . . . limping to safety. It was a war zone, on our soil. Almost 3,000 people died that day — more than the attack on Pearl Harbor 80 years ago that caused the United States to enter World War II.” 

Fontaine turned his thoughts to the present day. “I am young, but I am not naïve,” he said. “Every day there are people in the United States who are unfairly treated, denied rights and freedoms that the privileged enjoy . . . There are children who go to bed hungry, people living in tents on the streets, and others who don’t have access to the college education that I enjoy.

“The best way each of us can honor the lives that were lost on September 11th,” he said, “is to work hard to make sure that everyone in our country has the opportunity and the resources to pursue their dreams, without prejudice. In our own small way, my colleagues and I in SGA are trying to do this on our campus. I ask that each of you find ways to do so in your own lives.”

Preisent Nunez
Eastern President Elsa Núñez

President Núñez spoke next and reminded everyone that the victims of 9/11 came from more than 90 countries. “The entire world was impacted; humanity itself was attacked.”

While 9/11 remains the deadliest terrorist attack in history, many thousands who survived the attacks continue to struggle today. “Some had to quit their jobs,” said Núñez. “Others still look in the mirror every day and wonder why it was they who survived and not their colleagues or loved ones. And all of those who survived that day share a common request of us — do not forget.”

Núñez turned to the United States flag for guidance. “The glorious symbol of our great nation has three colors. Each has meaning and significance.”

Red stands for valor, strength of heart and resilience: “What valor was shown that day, 20 years ago, by the first responders who risked their own lives to enter the World Trade Center. What strength of heart was shown by the people on Flight 93 who overtook the cockpit and brought that plane down. What resilience was demonstrated by the people of New York City.”

White stands for purity and innocence: “Our country has many imperfections, and I stand before you today at a time when there is great dissension and discord among us. But our values and our principles remain a beacon for the entire world.”

Blue stands for vigilance and justice: “Democracy is a living thing, and more fragile than we sometimes realize. We certainly know today that our democracy is continually being threatened by foreign and domestic forces. The past few years have taught us that we must meet every threat with strength and determination.”

The Foster Clock Tower illuminated red, white and blue.

Student Christopher Gregor sings "Amazing Grace."

A flag display in front of the Student Center.

Núñez told the gathering to lead by example to honor those who lost their lives in the attacks two decades ago. “Be kind to others. Find peaceful solutions to the challenges facing you. Speak out against hatred and bigotry. Defend our freedoms when they are questioned. And support our students as they learn to be engaged citizens of our Great Democracy.

“Education is the most powerful tool we have in fighting hatred and ignorance. Let it be our contribution to the Land of the Free. The Home of the Brave.”

Father Larry
Father Larry, campus minister

Father Laurence “Larry” LaPointe followed the president with his own reflections and prayer. “I do remember 9/11,” he said to a generation of young people who did not witness the day. “I was here. I remember consoling students in Hurley Hall who were struggling to make sense of what they just saw on TV.”

LaPointe’s remarks focused on two words: “impact” and “vulnerability.” “We were all very conscious of ‘impact,’ but only in one sense of the word,” he said, referring to the collisions of the planes. “But what of the people in the fourth plane, that crashed in Pennsylvania, who took control of an uncontrollable situation and gave their lives — that is true impact.”

Speaking of vulnerability, he said, “The Twin Towers and the Pentagon were symbols of invulnerability. They were prepared for anything — earthquakes, hurricanes — but not hatred mixed with a mode of transportation that we take for granted.”

LaPointe acknowledged that the events of 9/11 were a catalyst for hatred among many people who witnessed and survived the day, “not unlike the hatred that flew the planes. . . We know the impact of hatred by 19,” he said of the hijackers. “But what of the many whose hearts were hardened?”

He told the gathering to look inward. “Sit in silence, and see the vulnerability of our own hearts, and how we may best have an impact in the lives we live.”

The ceremony closed with the singing of “Amazing Grace” by student Christopher Gregor.

A strand of doves, a symbol of peace, hangs in the Student Center. 

In addition to the noon ceremony, the Foster Clock Tower rang chimes at 8:46 a.m. on Friday morning to recall the time of day when the first airplane hit the World Trade Center. Throughout the week, and over the weekend, the Foster Clock Tower will also remain illuminated in red, white and blue lights to represent the United States flag. 

Additionally, the J. Eugene Smith Library has been hosting a 14-poster exhibit from the 9/11 Museum and Memorial’s “September 11, 2001: The Day That Changed the World” poster exhibition. Students also made paper doves and hung them on the 9/11 memorial tree as a symbol of Eastern's commitment to world peace. Finally, the Student Center has been hosting a display of flags in front of the center to recognize that the 9/11 attacks took the lives of innocent people from more than 90 countries.

Written by Michael Rouleau

Categories: Administration