On Wednesday morning, the Youngstown State University community recalled the horrific events of one year ago with a commemoration service and dedication of a memorial flag pole.
The service took place on a beautiful sunny morning, much like one year ago, before our spirits were torn apart by unbelievable acts of terrorism.
It was an opportunity to acknowledge and remember the life of Terry Lynch, a YSU alumnus who perished at the Pentagon, and dedicate the successful student-initiated flag pole project.
As the Protestant campus minister at YSU, I wondered what the student and faculty response would be to the commemoration service. My seven-year history at YSU has shown me that "getting a crowd" for anything other than a required class is never guaranteed, and often an extremely difficult task to accomplish. I was glad to discover that this tradition was broken with a beautiful service that was well attended, and took on special meaning for those present.
Effect on students
In a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education titled "One Year Later," Eric Hoover reports that life has returned to normal for college students at the University of Maryland. He reported that most college students have not changed their lifestyle or their career goals as a result of 9/11, and "... the campus itself has long since moved on. Many students say Sept. 11 touched them only superficially, or in ways that were easier to feel than to measure."
I thought about this statement as I watched several hundred students, faculty and staff gather for the YSU memorial service on Wednesday morning. "Is it true here as well?" I wondered. As we waited for the service to begin, the student sitting next to me on the lawn was preoccupied with locating friends in the crowd. Lots of students talked on cell phones, telling friends or family where they were. Some students visited and laughed, moved in and out of the crowd, walking to class or other places.
Then something happened that I never expected. As the service moved toward its end, "Taps" was played by two members of the YSU band. The brilliant notes of the trumpet filled the air and moved with the breeze, and seemed to touch each person with its message of sorrow and yet hope.
Directly in front of me there was a YSU student in jeans and boots, his backpack filled with books was on the ground next to him. When "Taps" started he suddenly stood at attention, saluting the newly dedicated American flag. Maybe he had served in some branch of the military; perhaps he was a member of the ROTC. The young man stood at attention as the solemn notes were played by one musician, then returned by another. It was a moving moment.
I'm not exactly sure how the events of 9/11 will affect students at YSU.
I'm sure that some of what the Chronicle reporter stated is true. For most, life has returned to normal, and terrorism is simply more of a reality than before.
A defining moment
One faculty member at the University of Maryland (Sue Briggs) states that "she doubts that Sept. 11 will be this generation's defining moment."
While that may be true, as I stood on the grass on the campus core outside Kilcawley Student Center, listening to the tribute of the trumpets, watching the student in respectful attention, observing students and faculty wipe away tears that had unexpectedly come, I couldn't help but feel that one year later, it was most definitely a defining moment for YSU.
XThe Rev. Kathryn Adams is the Protestant campus minister at Youngstown State University.