Veterans of the United States Armed Forces, Coral Gables Fire Department and students gathered at the Rock to pay their respects in a 9/11 Memorial Day service.
Patricia Whitely, vice president of student affairs, ensured that the university would always hold a memorial service to remember the lives lost during Sep. 11, regardless the of how many years have passed.
“Fifteen years ago this Sunday, numerous students, staff and faculty came together to remember the fallen,” Whitely said. “We must never forget.”
She told the audience that there were two first-year students during that time who lived in Hecht that lost family members in New York.
“So many stories, so many lives, 3,061 children growing up without parents, completely shattered lives never the same,” Whitely said. “Here in UM, we made a very special effort to embrace and love our fellow students who were very vulnerable.”
On Sep. 11, nearly 3,000 people lost their lives to a series of coordinated terrorist attacks, the deadliest incident in the United States for firefighters and law enforcement where more than 400 were killed when acting as first respondents.
Four airplanes were hijacked by 19 terrorists pledging allegiance to Al-Qaeda and plunged the planes into the North and South tower of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and a field in Stonycreek Township near Shanksville, Pennsylvania after its passengers fought back against the hijackers.
This led to the U.S. declaring war on terror, culminating with the death of the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, a decade later by U.S. Navy Seals.
Vikesh Patel, president of Student Government, spoke about his memories of 9/11, not understanding what was happening due to his young age.
“I remember being taken out of school early by my family,” Patel said. “We may not have fully understood or grasped the situation at hand but today as adult we can understand the impact it has and continue to have on our country and the world.”
To the Armed Forces and firemen in attendance, Patel thanked them for their service that he said gave the country a chance to thrive.
“Because of you all we are provided many freedoms that make our country so unique,” Patel said.
The Hammond-Butler Inspirational Concert Choir lent their voice to the event, singing the national anthem and “America the Beautiful.”
Retired Master Sergeant Jack Wengrosky, who is now in his third year working at the Frost School of Music, performed the “Taps,” the bugle call played to remember the fallen.
“This is one of the official music that we do in official ceremonies,” Wengrosky said. “This is for the fallen soldiers, it is one of those things that represent that part of the military.”
Wengrosky remembered that he was with his unit, U.S. Army Field Band, in Maryland the day during the attacks.
“I was at my unit in Fort Meade, Maryland and we went under lockdown and about three weeks later I was at the site at New York City performing concerts and public affairs for the people,” Wengrosky said.
Wengrosky said it was a personal honor to asked to perform the “Taps” to honor the sacrifices made for those involved.
“I have performed the ‘Taps’ around 100 times and it is always a great honor,” Wengrosky said. “Unfortunately it is one of those things that you do for soldiers in the past and I am always glad to do that service for the troops and for the American people.”
Feature image courtesy Pixabay user kevinkjr0