Dozens gathered on Cornell’s Arts Quad on Monday evening to pay tribute to the thousands of Americans who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks 16 years ago.
“Through history … there have been a lot of instances that have shaken the world and it’s in those situations that a lot of people in this country, regardless of their background, have come together to cherish the people and mourn the people that they have lost in these events,” Steven Pierce ’20, a member of the Cornell University Veterans Association, said at the vigil.
The event was organized by Cornell Republicans, who have hosted a memorial vigil every year since the attacks.
“It is important to remember this event every year, especially as future students will not have any living recollection of the events of that fateful day,” said Austin McLaughlin ’18, president of Cornell Republicans.
While the crowd gathered in solidarity for a solemn candlelit vigil, Cornell’s chimes remained silent between 7:30 and 8 p.m.
“This historical event, when it first happened, there was a lot of hate, a lot of angst, rightfully so, but tonight, however, I saw nothing but love and that’s a beautiful thing,” Pierce said, “especially when it comes to remembering those that we have lost, the personnel that were there at the towers, the civilians, the police and firemen, the first responders, and the loss to our military service members following that in the wars to come on terror.”
In addition to arranging the candlelit vigil in the evening, the Cornell Republicans staffed a table on the Arts Quad during the afternoon to raise money for Veterans of Foreign Wars in Ithaca, a non-profit veterans service organization serving Tompkins County veterans.
Cornell Republicans raised $390.17 to fund various projects to support local veterans through the The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S., or VFW.
“They use the money to assist disabled or needy veterans and their dependents, particularly in U.S. government pensions and compensation, hospitalizations, problems of homelessness, and food supplies,” McLaughlin said.
On Sunday night, the group also placed flags on the Arts Quad in an arrangement that spelled out “NEVER FORGET,” which was visible from the clock tower.
McLaughlin emphasized the importance of not forgetting the sacrifices made that day.
“For our generation, this was the foundational and watershed event, and we must remember the Americans who lost their lives to this terrorist attack on our nation,” he said.
“Donating to veterans on this day is particularly significant to remember and thank the American veterans who gave the ultimate sacrifice in the subsequent War on Terror, as well as to support those who are still with us,” McLaughlin said.
Pierce, who is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, said he was moved by the memorial service.
“This is my second semester here at Cornell, and I wasn’t expecting that big of an impression to be made right away when it came to the community … but [when] people come together they really represent the better part of our country,” he said.