The solemn tones of “Amazing Grace” rose over the gathering crowd in front of the Darwin R. Wales Center, as the campus community gathered for the 16th annual Sept. 11 Remembrance ceremony.
The morning mist burned off as bagpiper Rich Maloney played, unveiling the clear blue skies of September – skies that were familiar to all those who remember that fateful day, when terrorist attacks struck the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
Not that many SUNY Broome students would remember: Many were just toddlers when the attacks occurred, although they grew up in a world shaped by their aftermath, SUNY Broome President Kevin E. Drumm acknowledged.
First-responders and elected officials joined the SUNY Broome Administration, faculty, staff and students for the annual memorial ceremony, which continues to draw a crowd.
For many young Hornets, 9/11 has become a historic event – similar to how previous generations viewed the attack on Pearl Harbor, Dr. Drumm pointed out. Like Pearl Harbor, 9/11 led the nation to war – in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the worldwide fight against terrorism, including within our own borders. These conflicts continue to this day.
“We continue to be deeply grateful to all of our servicemen and women, who risk their lives every day to fight terrorism in our increasingly volatile world,” President Drumm said.
While today’s students may not have endured the “duck and cover” drills of previous generations, they too face a world with renewed threats of nuclear war, this time from North Korea. They have also grown up in a world where schools have lock-down drills in preparation for active shooters – domestic terrorism, in short.
“In many ways, today’s young people have had to be more resilient and more ready to face an uncertain future,” Dr. Drumm said.
While it can be easy to focus on the darkness, it’s just as important to focus on the moments of duty and compassion that tragedies spawn, the impulse to help one another that is among the greatest motivators for both Americans and humanity as a whole, Dr. Drumm said. That includes the first-responders bravely facing the flames on 9/11 and all those agencies and individuals who came together to save lives and comfort the loved ones of the lost.
In fact, we’re still pulling together as Americans. Just as Upstate emergency services personnel headed downstate to help out in the aftermath of 9/11, New Yorkers have headed west to aid Houstonians impacted by the massive flooding there.
SUNY Broome and other community colleges also have a particular role to play: training the first-responders of tomorrow. Most first-responders across the country have received their training from community colleges, President Drumm pointed out.
On 9/11, race, religion, political party – none of the usual dividing lines mattered, remembered Broome County Executive and SUNY Broome alumnus Jason Garnar. We were all simply Americans, coming together to help – an impulse seen whenever disaster strikes, from local snowstorms to terrorism.
“We should never forget the spirit we had in this country that day. For a long time, we were unified,” Garnar said. “We should have that type of unity each and every day, not just when tragedy strikes.”