POSTED SEPT. 19 AT 5:36 P.M.
The main floor of the University Center looks and sounds like it usually does, with conversations raging, students studying at tables and plasma TVs playing ESPN. Tonight, however, most of the sectional sofas are filled by students and pushed together into six rows, all facing a stage set up next to a projection screen with another stage on the side.
In a corner next to the front stage four members of the University of Miami ROTC Color Guard wearing camouflage stand and converse, as one of them holds the American flag and another holds the state of Florida flag. Without any call to order or person appearing on stage, the room begins to quiet as the clock nears 7:30 p.m.
The date is Sept. 11, 2007, and six years ago about 3,000 victims lost their lives when terrorists crashed three jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., as well as a fourth thwarted attempt that crashed in a Shanksville, Pa., field.
The Division of Student Affairs has organized and coordinated a candlelight vigil for students in remembrance of one of the darkest events in American history since 2002.
The introduction is given by Whitney Bloom, a graduate assistant for Student Life. She attended the first vigil in 2002 that took place at the Wellness Center as a student, as well as the next three in the years afterwards.
After Pastor Steve DeBardelaben, the university chaplain for Athletes in Action, delivered the opening prayer, Bloom approaches the podium once more to introduce Danny Carvajal, President of Student Government.
The room is silent apart from the speakers and the whirring of the air conditioner, and those passing through the University Center hush their conversations as they enter and leave.
“I remember, I was in 11th grade, in class, getting information on my beeper and everyone surrounding me [asking], ‘What is going on?’,” said Kristine Acevedo, a senior from New York who attended the vigil. “People were really anxious and nervous. You couldn’t get through on the cell phone, you didn’t know where your parents were or your friends’ parents.”
Several students were fortunate enough not to have lost any loved ones on Sept. 11, but still attended the vigil to show their support.
“I still feel like I should do something, even though it’s six years later,” said sophomore Colleen Dourney, whose father is from New York City.
The centerpiece of the vigil was a video presentation entitled “A Tribute to Sept. 11.” This time, the whole room goes dark, apart from a light at the Information Desk illuminating a cloth Flag of Honor covering the center part of the wall. On the red stripes of the flags, written in small white letters, are the names of all the innocents lost on 9/11.
As the video plays, the feelings return. Still photos and video of the towers on fire, people fleeing tidal waves of soot and smoke, debris falling, the towers collapsing, firefighters climbing, the hole in the side of the Pentagon, along with images from the days following, such as the make-shift memorials and firefighters digging through debris, everything recreating the horrible, heavy sensation in the pit of one’s stomach and being felt back then. The final frame is a photo of the dual pillars of light at Ground Zero during nighttime.
“It’s something that you can’t forget, you’ll always remember it,” Acevedo said.
Rene Baulto may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.