9/11’s meaning evolves from 2001

The American flag at the entrance to Washington State Community College was replaced Wednesday with one whose red and white stripes bear the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The flag was raised to half-staff during a morning ceremony marking the 12th anniversary of the attacks. The observation continues this week with a donation drive to gather items like toiletries, non-perishable food, entertainment items and cash for care packages to send to active-duty soldiers.

“There are several dates in each generation for which one remembers where they were, what they were doing, what they were thinking, who they were with,” college President Bradley Ebersole said in remarks during the morning ceremony.

For his parents, that date was Dec. 7, 1941, the attack on Pearl Harbor. For him, it was Nov. 21, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. For many of the college’s students, and the AmeriCorps college guides who organized the donation drive and Wednesday’s ceremony, that day is Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists flew hijacked airplanes into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. A fourth flight crashed in a field in Pennsylvania after passengers fought back against the hijackers.

“It’s important for that generation that experienced 9/11 to always remember that day, how it affected them,” Ebersole said after the ceremony. “It has changed our lives in many ways, even simple things like the security we experience today.”

College guide Katie Blackwell, a seventh-grader when the attacks happened, agreed. Her work with the Upward Bound and Talent Search programs has shown her there are already people who don’t recall the day as vividly as she does.

“I work with high school students who have very little recollection of that day; they were toddlers when it happened,” she said.

In the years since, Sept. 11 has been designated a National Day of Service and Remembrance and is one of the assigned service days for AmeriCorps, a national program through which four-year college graduates have been assigned to assist in various departments at the college. This year’s crop of college guides carried on the donation drive and memorial service started by their predecessors four years ago.

Marietta resident Tristan Kostelnik, a 24-year-old Washington State student and U.S. Air Force veteran, was one of about 50 faculty, staff, students and community members who attended Wednesday’s ceremony. He said he appreciated both that event and the donation drive.

“I think with the wars ending, a lot of people are forgetting we still have troops in Afghanistan and troops abroad fighting for our freedom,” Kostelnik said.

People can take items or cash to be donated to Washington State’s student services office in the main building or contact Heather Saling at hsaling@wscc.edu or 374-8716.

Other memorial events scheduled for Wednesday included a candlelight vigil at Marietta College in the evening and an early morning ceremony at Parkersburg High School, alma mater of Mary Lou Hague, who was working in Tower 2 of the World Trade Center and died in the attacks.