Flag raises, lowers to honor lives lost on 9/11

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Gabriel Fiorini I Northern Star

3,000 flags posted outside of the Holmes Student Center represent the lives lost on 9/11.

Gabriel Fiorini, News Reporter

DeKALB— Attendees and onlookers stood in reverence as Darren Mitchell, acting NIU Police Chief, and three U.S. soldiers raised and lowered the flag outside the Holmes Student Center. 

Students and staff gathered outside at 2 p.m. Friday to commemorate 9/11. The night before, almost 3,000 flags were installed in the grass by the stairs of the Martin Luther King Commons, representing the lives lost as a result of the attacks. 

NIU President Lisa Freeman and DeKalb Mayor Cohen Barnes spoke from the steps outside the MLK Commons. 

“The tragedy brought out the best in people,” Freeman said. “People across our country and around the world came together. Everyone wanted to contribute in some way. Many of our own alumni and employees were motivated to go into service in the armed forces to help protect our nation as first responders in their community.”

Freeman also acknowledged university students who may not remember the tragedy themselves and were instead taught about the events that unfolded 20 years ago.   

“For younger members of our Huskie family, remembering September 11 and its aftermath is largely something that had to be taught, and that has been portrayed in literature and movies and museums,” Freeman said. “What’s shared by both generations, those who knew the world before 9/11 and those only after are the consequences still emanating from that time. We’ve witnessed the casualties of the war that until recently seemed open-ended… People nationwide are still dealing with 9/11 induced prejudices, chronic illnesses and mental health issues.”

Freeman spoke about the persistent damage inflicted by 9/11’s events.

“I can’t think of a better way to honor the lives of the men, women and children lost from 9/11,” Freeman said. 

Barnes thanked those in attendance before recounting his memories and thoughts on Sept. 11.

“I remember watching so much of the horror as the towers fell,” Barnes said. “I remember watching the firefighters and seeing them running into the towers, right, running in. It just shows you who we are and what we’re made of… how we can come together.”

Danna Riola,  mother of an NIU student, was one of many in attendance. “I get goosebumps even remembering that day,” Riola said. “I worked near O’Hare Airport and the airplanes would go over, going into landing. And maybe an hour or two after it all happened they halted everything. It was dead silent. It was eerie.”

Gabriel Cross, fourth-year electrical engineering major, was sitting outside the Holmes Student Center while participating in Bible study, but decided to join the crowd in commemoration. 

“It’s just respectful, you know? To honor the people who’ve fallen,” Cross said. “It’s very much the right thing to do.” 

Cross was born in 1998 and acknowledged that he was too young to remember the events firsthand.

“We’ve got lots of folks that work on campus that were alive on campus that were alive when this happened, and really remember it,” said Meg Junk, chief of staff of Student Affairs. “For our students, many of them weren’t alive when it happened and if they were, they were babies, but it has forever impacted the way things happen in their lives.”