On Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, Washington State Senator Michael Baumgartner and a group of about 40 Whitworth students and reporters from The Spokesman-Review gathered underneath the campanile in The Loop to hold a memorial, remembering the 2001 terror attack that killed 2,977 people.
Initial remarks were made by Madison Habersetzer, president of Young Americans for Freedom, the club which sponsored the event, who invited those in attendance to join her in prayer, and a moment of silent reflection. Following this Charles Duranona, former U.S. Navy Corpsman and Veteran Liaison to Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers described how his experiences on 9/11 prompted his military career, and shared a few words on behalf of the Congresswoman.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Washington State Senator Michael Baumgartner. The Senator explained some of the historical and political context surrounding the 2001 attack, and related his experiences on the morning in question as well as his subsequent service for the State Department in the Middle East. The senator encouraged Whitworth students to go out into the world – to study abroad and learn foreign languages, but to also remember the sacrifices that made those opportunities possible. Of the 2,977 flags lining the Hello Walk, Baumgartner said, “we see those as flags, but every one of those…is a real person with a family, like you and I.”
Senator Baumgartner also spoke of further educating Whitworth students about the events leading up to and immediately following the 9/11 attacks, but was nevertheless grateful that so many students expressed an interest in the evening’s memorial.
“You know it happened 17 years ago, when many of the students at Whitworth were young, so I think it’s really impressive they took the time to do it. It’s something that’s very important for our country to remember, and so I greatly appreciate it,” he said.
Many of the students in attendance expressed similar views.
“I think it is very important for people of our generation to commemorate 9/11 even though we were so young when it happened, and most of us don’t remember when it happened, but it has had such a lasting effect on our nation that it’s something we should not forget,” junior Ella Wilkinson said.
Leah Meyer, a junior, said, “I think it’s important, especially for young people because events like this are kind of glossed over…we’re the only ones that put on an event, the campus didn’t do anything, a separate club had to…I think that’s a special thing and more people should be out there doing it and recognizing events like this.”
This coming together of community was recognized by other students as well. “I think it’s good to see a good-sized group of the Whitworth community come together to remember the lives of people that lost their life on a day when they were just on an airplane or doing their job,” said senior Hunter Smit. “I think that sometimes being in the Pinecone Curtain we forget about those things so it’s good to see this community come together for this.”
In fact, togetherness was one of the primary goals according to Harbersetzer. Although the memorial was sponsored by the Young Americans for Freedom, a club formed in the spring of 2017 to sponsor conservative speakers and foster on-campus dialogue, Harbersetzer was keen to downplay politics on such a solemn anniversary.
“When I was thinking about this event, what I wanted it to be first and foremost was a respectful memorial for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and for their families who still miss them. I wanted this event to just be a quiet and dignified memorial rather than anything political, something to really unify our campus and all of us who were affected by 9/11 and just to remember…the significance that that has, just by how we view the world and ourselves as Americans, and also just to remind us of the value of freedom,” she said.