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Sunday, July 3, 2022

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Military representatives, first responders and SDSU President Adela de la Torre gathered for a 9/11 memorial. Military representatives, first responders and SDSU President Adela de la Torre gathered for a 9/11 memorial.

SDSU Community Marks 9/11 Anniversary with Memorial

At the ROTC-hosted event, military representatives and SDSU President Adela de la Torre honored the victims of the terrorist attacks, first responders and those who volunteered to serve.
By Lainie Fraser

Twenty years ago, on a clear morning, the New York City skyline changed forever. Now decades after four coordinated attacks, one resulting in the World Trade Center’s twin towers coming down, the impacts continue to be felt — in the grief of families, in the lungs of first responders and in the hearts of people living around the world.

Today, thousands of miles away in the military community of San Diego, San Diego State University, with nearly 5,000 military-connected students, honored the lives lost and sacrifices made by those on Sept. 11, 2001 with a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC)-hosted memorial. 

SDSU Army, Navy, and Air Force ROTC hosted a memorial event on Sept. 13 at Hepner Hall to honor and recognize the lives lost and forever changed 20 years ago. Also in attendance at the memorial were first responders from the San Diego and SDSU Police Departments and the San Diego Fire Department.

Monday’s memorial included a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. commemorating the moment on Sept. 11 that the North Tower of the World Trade Center Complex was struck. A bell tolled 20 times to recognize each year that has passed. 

“Most of our first-year students, the sophomores and the juniors passing through Hepner Hall have never known a time without this war,” SDSU President Adela de la Torre said at the memorial. “They have never known a time without 9/11, and the terror and anxiety it created in our lives and the lives of their families. But this is also a day to remember our great strength as a diverse nation. To remember how much good we have done, and how far we have grown.”
Leading up to the memorial, SDSU Army ROTC Lieutenant Colonel Michelle Parltette reflected on its significance. “We remember the thousands who perished at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in Stonycreek Township, Pennsylvania, and recognize the sacrifices of first responders, who repeatedly entered the WTC towers to assist those trying to escape, navigating upstairs with cumbersome equipment, while everyone else was rushing downstairs,” she said.

It being the 20th year since the attacks made this year’s event even more poignant, according to SDSU Army ROTC Major Thomas Touw.

“I think it is a little more special based on what has just happened in Afghanistan,” Touw said. “I think it is kind of bringing the Sept. 11 attacks to the forefront again, so we want to honor that.”

Touw, an assistant professor of military history at SDSU, said the annual campus remembrance is a time for the military to link with first responders and honor their sacrifices and that the university’s location provides a unique opportunity for the military community.

“The fact that San Diego State is in such a strong military community and is so welcoming of the entire community, military or not, is a really good opportunity to show how well military culture and civilian culture can influence each other, honor each other and work well with each other,” he said.

Touw, who was on active duty on Sept. 11, said the attacks changed the entire country.

“Since Sept. 11, specifically from Sept. 12 on, you saw such a surge in patriotism,” Touw said. “I never had someone come up to me before Sept. 11 and thank me for my service, but it happens quite often now.” Touw said.

Touw said the military changed on that September day as well.

“I definitely feel people were inspired to serve following the attacks,” said Touw. “There was a surge in enlistments just after Sept. 11 and as bittersweet as it is, I think it was good in showing the younger generation that service is a good thing to this country.”

Parlette said the impacts endure even 20 years later.

“Aside from the devastating grief and memories that this day reminds us of, hundreds still suffer from debilitating injuries received from the buildings collapsing, or from rushing to save others without regard to their own wellbeing,” Parlette said. “Several suffer from illnesses associated with breathing in the dust and debris, or from post-traumatic stress disorder brought on by living through the events of that day, and the days and years that followed both here and abroad. On this day, we also remember these brave and resilient survivors.”
Touw works as the executive officer for the Army ROTC on campus and supports young men and women as they complete their education and begin their careers serving in the U.S. Army. 

“I do think it is very important to never forget what happened,” Touw said. “You have to remember what happened to prevent it from happening again.”