T-Sgt. Nate Leonard, UPD Columnist
This past Tuesday, September 11, 2012, I had the honor of participating in the Color Guard for the 9/11 ceremony held here on campus near the 9/11 memorial. I have participated in this capacity for several years now to honor our fellow Americans who lost their lives on that fateful day. The slogan that has often been attached to 9/11 is “Never forget,” which is one of the reasons why some take part in memorial ceremonies every year on September 11, so that we will never forget those lost and how precious our freedom is. It troubles me that every year the crowd gets smaller and smaller at our memorial here on campus. It makes me question our motto as Americans, “Never forget.” What will the crowd be like 11 years from now? Will there be anybody there who remembers, or anyone whose parents have told them the stories of that fateful day and what it felt like to have our homeland terrorized? I had the opportunity to speak with one retired faculty member who told me that he had two of the seven Oneonta State alumni that were lost in the towers in his classes when they were students here, and that is why he comes every year—to remember them and the others. Me personally, I can still feel the awful feelings and see the awful images that I felt and saw on that day. Speaking with my peers, the consensus is the same. I realize some may choose to memorialize the day in the privacy of their own home or in their own personal way, and I absolutely respect that. However, I just can’t help but think that many are forgetting, or are allowing that day to be forgotten, or maybe were never fully informed of the events of that day. The majority of our student population today was born in the early or mid-1990s. That would make many of you maybe eight, nine, or ten years old when this tragic event took place. Soon we will have a student population that has no personal memories of that day at all. That is why we need to do our part and own up to the motto we Americans gave to memorialize that day, “Never forget.” We need to do our part in passing along the events of that day to future generations.
2,977 people lost their lives on September 11, 2001. 246 of those lost were on the four planes that were hijacked that day. 2,606 lost were in New York City, in the towers and on the ground. 125 lost were in the Pentagon, when a hijacked plane crashed into it. 340 firefighters, two paramedics and a chaplain were taken from the fire department of New York City. The New York City police lost 23 officers, along with the 37 officers taken from the Port Authority Police. Eight EMTs and paramedics were lost from private medical services. All of these first responders were killed while going to the tragedy and trying to help other fellow human beings. I also read a statistic that stated that approximately 18,000 people have since developed illnesses as a result of the exposure to the toxic dust that engulfed the city that day. As I look at these statistics I ask myself, and I hope you ask yourself, “How could we ever possibly forget?”