Students gather for 9/11 memorial one year after controversy

and | Contributing Writers

American flags line Mudd Field for a 9/11 commemoration in 2014. (Photo by Mary Richardson | Student Life)

Following the 9/11 controversy that swept campus last year, the Washington University College Republicans (WUCR) hosted a flag planting event to honor the 2,977 victims of the terrorist attack. The club advertised it as a nonpartisan event open for all community members to participate in.

The University made national headlines last September after a student was filmed removing the memorial flags in an attempt to protest the war on terror and Islamaphobia that followed the attacks on 9/11. Many University members became embroiled in a conversation about Islamophobia, white nationalism, and what people deem to be American values.

Some students felt the protest disrespected the lives lost on 9/11, while others saw the protest as a form of free speech. Ultimately, the student who removed the flags was condemned by the University for their actions and had to pay a fine. The student also received criticism and threats of violence from peers and individuals outside of the WashU community.

This weekend’s event drew 10 people, many of whom were not members of the WUCR, while 14 people attended last year. Junior Nathaniel Hope, current President of the College Republicans, spoke about the nonpartisan nature of the event. 

“I want to emphasize that this activity is for every student, staff member, every member of our community,” Hope said. “These attacks impacted every American regardless of your political ideology, and really an international community as well. People from over 90 countries have died in these attacks.”

Going into the event this year there was uncertainty about whether or not the memorial would be disrupted again. Hope explained that the WUCR had contingency plans and protocols in place to handle any disturbances. In contrast to last year, there was no interference with the event.

Participants said the event was extremely meaningful. Sophomore Josh Warner expressed his respect for the first responders as well as his opinions about the larger implications of the event, saying that planting flags meant “being supportive of the people who died during the terrorist attacks.”

Senior Amelia Frederking spoke about her personal reasons for attending the event, specifically her hopes for the country’s growth as a whole.

“[I want] to plant one flag for each of the victims and use this opportunity to both recognize that this terrible tragedy occurred on 9/11 but also to reinforce the idea that America will persevere, will remain standing strong,” Frederking said.

Sophomore Mason Letteau Stallings spoke about the importance of remembering the victims despite not having been alive when the attacks took place. 

“If we don’t remember them,” Stallings said, “we forget, and a tragedy on that scale is just something that you cannot forget.”

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