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EMU Remembers 9/11 With Special Ceremony On Campus

Eastern Michigan University held a Ceremony of Remembrance on campus Wednesday morning as part of the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.  Many used the ceremony as a time to reflect on the past.  As part of the 18th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, memorials were held across the country on Wednesday, including right here in Washtenaw County.  89.1 WEMU’s Jorge Avellan attended one in Ypsilanti and has the story.

Over 70 residents gathered at Eastern Michigan University’s Pease Park to remember those who died on September 11.  Clear skies allowed the sun to shine over a 14-foot-long beam that came from the 74th floor of the South Tower of the World Trade Center.  EMU spokesperson Geoff Larcom says two employees from the university picked up the beam in New York in 2011 after the university requested it.

Geoff Larcom: On the way home, it was remarkable, they drove through Manhattan, I don't know how they got a flatbed through Manhattan. As they drove home people were in various ways moved by the sight of the beam. Of course it was remarkable. And when John and Kevin revealed the nature of their trip, what they were hauling, this solicited powerful reactions from so many people at rest stops, at gas stations. People wanted to touch it and people were so moved by what it represented in terms of loss of lives and the courage that that incident generated by so many first responders.

Pastors and university officials spoke at the ceremony.  EMU student Reid Scott was nine years old when the attacks took place in 2001.  He remembers the day like it was yesterday.

Reid Scott: I was sitting at the kitchen counter at my house with mom getting ready. I was eating a bowl of Cap'n Crunch, I was getting ready to leave for school. We were watching CBS Morning News. And the breaking alert came on the screen. I looked over, I saw the plane struck the first building, and, at that moment, I knew something was wrong. Obviously, I didn't know the full weight of what was happening but I knew we were under attack. I knew the country was under attack.

Twenty-two year-old Tyler Kochman attended the ceremony to pay his respects for a tragedy that he views as this generation's Pearl Harbor.  He was in pre-school at the time of the attacks.

Tyler Kochman: It started making its way into textbooks when I was in fifth grade. There was a mention, I remember, in one of the chapters and I was like, it's weird that something happened during my life, and it's already history and being taught. Sixth grade was when it started making its way into textbooks because it was in the sixth grade on my own, I started independently, I became very interested in researching the events. Because, in second grade, we went by the World Trade Center site, which there was nothing there anymore, it was empty. And I remembered not knowing what the Twin Towers looked liked.

Meanwhile, 19 year-old Audrey Stachler wasn’t even a year old when the attacks took place but attended the memorial, because she says it's important to remember those who died.

Audrey Stachler: I couldn't imagine living through it, being there that day or watching it. Hearing about it on the news. I guess I'm kind of glad I wasn't able to remember it. But I still think it's a good thing to learn about so that we can try to prevent that in the future.

EMU Police Chief Bob Heighes says it’s encouraging to see that after 18 years, first responders who risked and gave up their lives on September 11 are still remembered.  Officers from over five local police agencies like Ypsilanti and Saline attended the ceremony.

Chief Heighes: When you have so many different agencies from our community attending an event, it shows that we see the importance of the remembrance to honor this day and to honor the people that were part of the 9/11 event that occured. But it's also great to see the community there to offer that support as well.

Leigh Gredenis the Chief of Staff at Eastern.  He says he was on the 37th floor of the Renaissance Building in Detroit when the attacks took place.

Leigh Greden: When the gravity of the situation hit us, it was shock, it was sadness, and we were quickly evacuated from the building because it was perceived as a potential target. And I still keep in touch with one of the people whom I was with that morning. Every 9/11, we touch base with each other. It's a solemn morning, but it's also a morning for me that represents how wonderful the United States is, in that we came together as a strong country, unified to support each other.

EMU President James Smith talks about what he reflects on every year during September 11.

President James Smith: I continue to think about the first responders, many of them are still suffering from the aftermath of doing heroic work on that day, and they die often very tragic deaths. So I think about that in the morning, usually, as I'm coming to this event.

The ceremony ended with the song "God Bless America,"and residents placed carnations on the beam from the World Trade Center that is part of a permanent 9/11 memorial on campus.

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— Jorge Avellan is a reporter for 89.1 WEMU News. Contact him at 734.487.3363 or email him javellan@emich.edu

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