9/11 healing continues, half a decade later

As students walked into the quiet University Center Monday evening, many did not feel the common aura of happiness and the presence of the familiar loud laughter floating around. Instead, there was silence.

On that night, students joined the Student Government President Annette Ponnock and Stephen Sapp, chair of the Department of Religious Studies, in a candlelight vigil to commemorate and mourn the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001.

Five years ago, the United States was attacked by 19 Islamic extremists, members of the international terrorist organization al-Qaeda, who hijacked four commercial jet airliners. Two of the planes crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon, while the fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. 2,973 people died that Tuesday morning when the “invincibility,” as Sapp said, of the world’s strongest nation was questioned.

What Americans had long read about in the newspapers and watched on television hit home that day, and the terrorism became all too real for the American public.

For days, images and clips of the towers collapsing and damaged Pentagon appeared and reappeared in newspapers, magazines and on television around the world.

Yet, a different image also appeared once in awhile- that of thousands of people around the world gathered, lighting candles and mourning the victims of the attacks.

Five years after the nation’s worst terrorist attacks, and five years after the initiation of President George W. Bush’s “war on terror,” Ponnock and Sapp spoke to the students, not about revenge, terrorism and war, but, about peace, heroism, freedom and love.

The somber memorial, organized by the Office of Student Affairs, asked students to both remember those who died on that infamous day and to seek hope for the future.

“As painful as it was, let us submit ourselves tonight not to forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001,” Sapp said. He added, “But, in our remembering, let’s not give in to fear and hatred. Instead, let our remembering serve as an encouragement to seek, in every way we can, the understanding, cooperation and tolerance that will lead us to a world truer at peace.”

Ponnock’s words of hope, Sapp’s outlook for a better future and UM graduate student Nathalia Gillot’s tribute to Sept. 11 video presentation visibly moved all of those present. Slowly people started giving in to their emotions and sorrow.

“[It] encouraged many to let go of some of the anger and frustration that some people still might have,” Bernardita Yunis, a junior, said.

The memorial event ended with students walking out of the UC with lit candles in honor of those who died five years ago. They left with tears and sadness, but also with hope for a better tomorrow.

Gabriela Campos may be contacted at g.campos1@umiami.edu.