By Josephine Styles
September 11, 2001: It hardly seems possible that it has been ten years since that unforgettable and horrific day. Anyone can easily remember where he or she was on 9/11. It was a day that bounded America together. It was the 21st century’s Pearl Harbor. And as our country turned back the clock to remember and honor those lives lost in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers, the Pentagon, and the plane crash near Shanksville, Pa, churches, schools, university campuses, and other organizations paid their respects on this 10th anniversary.
On Sunday, September 11, 2011 East Stroudsburg University held their own memorial service with a candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. on the Linden Quad, where I was just one among the large gathering of at least 250 students, faculty, and community members.
To the left of the stage were various posters created by ESU students and organizations. These posters had uplifting and emotional messages displayed for its viewers: “Alpha Omnicron Pi cares”; “Lambda Iota Remembers 9/11”; and a memory board of students recalling where they were that day. Habitat for Humanity and the Sociology Club also had posters there that evening.
The master of ceremonies was James Burke, President of Residence Hall Association, who began the service welcoming everyone and introducing Vice President of Student Affairs, Doreen Tobin. Ms. Tobin opened with the statement “It’s very important to spend tonight at this candlelight vigil.” She then reminisced about where she was on September 11th and how she hoped we found what we were all there for. For some of us, it was supporting a friend who lost a loved one. For others, it was honoring a fellow firefighter who gave his or her life to save the lives of others. But for all of us, it was coming together as one to remember that grave Tuesday morning and to pay tribute to America’s victims and heroes.
Reverend John Harding of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church of Smithfield spoke about the
horrors and hells of September 11th, saying, “It swallowed everything in its path. It ate everything it could reach.” But then it was challenged by us. “The light cannot be hidden, and it wasn’t that day.”
The flame from each American rose up against the darkness and came together to defend the country.
Reverend Harding ended with a prayer and reminded all that when those who parished are remembered, they live.
ESU President, Robert Dillman, continued the anniversary’s ceremony, expressing that “Tonight we come together to celebrate the lives of those who died.” ESU ‘03 alumna and current graduate student, Regina Sayles, also was among the guest speakers Sunday night. Bringing her guitar and amazing voice to the microphone, Sayles played and sang Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning” and Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You.”
Sayles added her own verse to Alan Jackson’s famous hit of where she was on September 11, 2001: on the ESU campus.
Richard Hennessy, Student Senate President, remembered the victims of 9/11 and those currently fighting over seas to protect us back home. “We grew a tough skin,” Hennessy said. “They are our heroes, and we will forever hold them in our hearts.” Before the lighting of candles, a moment of silence took place for all who were lost on that day.
Other speakers that night were Warriors’ Head Football Coach, Dennis Douds, and two friends of ESU ’95 alumnus, Martin Wortley, “who lost his life during the attacks on New York City.”
Wortley played offensive guard and tackle for ESU and majored in economics. Working as an “investment rates option broker for Cantor Fitzgerald” at the World Trade Center, he and his wife lived in Park Ridge, New Jersey. Wortley was a “hard worker and a solid citizen,” Douds said. “He always remembered to give back.”
To honor and remember Wortley and the approximately 3,000 people who perished on 9/11, Douds took the ESU football team to Shanksville, Pa. Douds also spoke about the first responders. “They saved thousands of lives.” Douds ended with remarking on the evils of September 11th saying, “It had the headline in the newspapers, but it won’t have the yearbook. Evil will not prevail.”
Reverend Harding took to the microphone once again with a benediction, ending the ceremony with everyone singing “God Bless America” and the candles being blown out.
I talked to a few students Sunday night, one of which was Victoria Malcervelli, an English major, graduating spring of 2014. I asked Victoria why it was important for her to come to this event. “I felt it was the least I could do because it affected so many people. Personally, I don’t know anyone who died in the attacks, but I try to be aware politically. So much comes down to today, to 9/11,” she responded. I also spoke with Laura Housley, a psychology major, graduating fall of 2012. I asked Laura how tonight affected her. “I feel like it was beautiful to see so many students and community members here to celebrate
the lives of those lost. It was really touching to see how much American spirit we all have,” she said.
I also had the chance to speak with James Burke, President of RHA and a computer science major, graduating spring of 2012. I asked James how 9/11 has impacted him. “Well, for me, the most impactful thing about it has been the community, the bonding experience, and the growing of America. Despite all the tragedy and negatives, at the end of the day, we can all come together, and we can still remember there’s a little bit of humanity left,” he answered.
Ten years ago, our nation faced a malicious attack that hit closer to home than any one would have expected. Thousands of lives were lost, and thousands were injured. America and her people were devastated.
We must always remember and honor the nearly 3,000 individuals who died on 9/11: the first responders who bravely reported to duty; the men and women who heard the call of humanity and came to New York City to volunteer in any way they could; the passengers
of Flight 93, who heard about the other attacks and purposely crashed their plane near
Shanksville, Pa, sacrificing themselves so that others would not have to be; and the men and women in the military who are still fighting over seas today to keep us safe.
Like the blowing out of a candle, a tragedy can happen in an instant, and on September 11, 2001, it did. We will never forget you 9/11. Never will we forget what you stand for or how our country came together to answer your call. And now, more than ever, do we need to find this strength in your memory to help us grow together as a stronger nation.
God bless America.