MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Army and Air Force ROTC cadets at West Virginia University commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11 as they always do, with honor and respect.
On Friday morning, Sept. 10, cadets gathered on the quad of the Downtown Campus Library for a wreath-laying ceremony. The wreath was placed beside the WVU Sept. 11, 2001, monument on-site, by University President Gordon Gee and Student Veteran Devin Redding. The two, also, gave speeches commemorating the attacks that killed almost 3,000 people.
“The attacks and the aftermath changed our nation and an entire generation,” Redding said.
She said she can still remember where she was when she found out — her sixth-grade science class. The images of the day are still, very much, with her and she carried them with her through her time at West Point and her deployment overseas to Afghanistan and West Africa.
Gee, the university president, said he, too, remembers where he was on the fateful day.
“I remember exactly what I was doing,” Gee said. “I was speaking to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in Nashville, TN. I remember them telling us about the planes. I remember going back to campus. I remember sleeping for two or three days on the campus, in my office and in residence halls because it was a traumatic time for all of us and for our students. So, those memories will always be with me. And not bad memories necessarily, but the memories of remembrances of really good things that people are doing for each other.”
Gee said there are many WVU students who were not born or too young to remember when the attacks happened. Nonetheless, he said, 9/11 was “very meaningful and poignant” to those who experienced it and those memories should be shared with younger people.
That’s why he said he was glad to have the wreath-laying ceremony, which continues the “tradition of the military for the past 250 years”. He said it’s important to honor servicewomen and men, veterans and all those who risk their lives to give the rest of us the ability to live freely.
“I think we all need to recognize that freedom has a price and I think that is one of the things we learned very much from 9/1,” Gee said.
In her speech, Redding also stressed the importance of recognizing the sacrifices that give Americans their liberty.
“We must get up each and every day to live up to their sacrifice,” Redding said. “Never forget.”
Gee said there are other lessons to take away as the nation remembers Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later.
“I think that one of the things we have to learn from 9/11, 20 years later, is we have to learn the arts of humility and kindness and that we may have divisions in terms of the way we think, but not in the way that we act as a people,” Gee said. “I think that right now as a divided nation, we could learn a lot from what happened 20 years ago.”
As part of an annual tradition, WVU ROTC cadets will transition into their annual 24-hour vigil in front of the WVU Main Library. The vigil pays tribute to American service members who have deployed over the past two decades to defend the homeland and protect American interests abroad.
According to WVU, shifts of cadets will march around the library quad in memory of the events, which resulted in the global war on terrorism including Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.
In the past two decades, hundreds of WVU Army and Air Force ROTC grads, as well as hundreds of WVU student veterans, have served honorably around the world in support of these missions.