It wasn’t that large of a gathering, but the point was clear; what happened on Sept. 11, 2001 will not be forgotten. Some 30 people were present Friday at 8:30 a.m. in the SUNY Fredonia Carnahan-Jackson Atrium in Reed Library to take part in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
Participants took places along a library stairwell and after the playing of a short horn piece by SUNY music students, Library Director Randy Gadikian spoke briefly.
Gadikian thanked those in attendance on the 12th anniversary of the “terrorist attacks against our country and the civilized world. Nearly 3,000 people lost their lives that day, not all Americans, souls were lost from every continent, from every race and of every religion. Our nation … was altered on that tragic day.
“Today, we honor the memory of the victims of that attack and recall the events of that day so that we will not, as a nation, forget this crime,” he continued. “As a nation we must never forget what occurred or those who died in New York City, Arlington, Virginia and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As a civilization we must not forget this was an attack against the ideals of liberty, freedom and human rights. Concepts that are not uniquely American, but are dear to many nations and many people around the globe.
“Let us strive for understanding, for compassion, for empathy, even with our perceived enemies. Let us strive for a just world, so that a true peace can be found.”
The group held a moment of silence before passing a gentle hand squeeze that began at the top of the group and went to the bottom of the stairwell before the group left the stairwell in silence.
Prior to the ceremony, Gadikian explained the why and how of the event, beginning with people getting out of the multi-story buildings that had come under attack.
“There are people with broken legs, old people, handicapped people. How do you get them out of this building? Well, you carry them down the stairwell. As the building is coming down you can’t necessarily wait for firemen, you have to help each other,” he stated. “So the sort of rallying cry was ‘meet me in the stairwell.’ So folks started gathering in the stairwells and started going down in ones and twos and helping people who couldn’t get down on their own.
“This stuck with the first responders who were there; the idea that this tragedy, here we have people who are uniting and helping one another get out of this building, and not everyone is going to make it. We know that so ‘meet me in the stairwell’ became sort of a saying that’s associated with this. The theme for that came from MaryLou DeWolf, who works here in the library. She remembered that story and said to me, “we’ve got the stairwell, we can do this, we can do a commemoration.”
It’s been done since 2002 and has included exhibits such as a stainless steel sculpture of the Twin Towers. Gadikian said attendance has ranged from 100 to 25 people.
“We always try to do it at the same time and we try to keep it brief. We don’t want to disrupt classes, we want to commemorate the event,” he stated. “I was here on 9/11, it was one of those things that you really didn’t believe when you heard about it, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center and a building was coming down. … All the fire companies sent someone,” added the Hamburg resident. “I know Hamburg sent a big contingent. I know there were people from Fredonia who went to New York City. At the time I was a Scoutmaster and one of my Scout dads all of a sudden had three more children in his household because his brother died and his brother’s wife had died two years previously; so he went from a little family of four people to a family of seven overnight and that happened to a lot of people.”
Some years have seen more attendance, some have had student-soldiers, veterans or firefighters come in uniform. While there were few students at the ceremony, one did have a purpose for being there.
She said her dad was a now-retired New York City fireman who had responded to the 9/11 scene to look for his fellow firefighters. While her dad has not been able to talk a lot about the ordeal due to post traumatic stress disorder, he did laud the way everyone came together to help.
“Whether you lost someone, or you just knew someone that was in it, we were all affected by it one way or another and I just wish people would just take the time to think before they ask, “well, what is tomorrow? Why are you so upset?'” the young woman added. “I think that’s the one thing my family is having a lot of difficulties with.”
Gadikian was asked if the ceremony will continue.
“Yes. It’s funny, on years when there’s a low turnout you wonder why do we do this? And you do it because you can and because you remember and it’s something we shouldn’t forget,” he stated. “The society that fails to remember its history relives those mistakes. We don’t want to relive that one.”
Gadikian had one more thing to add after hearing the student speak.
“That’s why we do this,” he stated of the 9-11 ceremony.
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