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Local Community Members Gather to Honor Victims and Heroes on 17th Anniversary of 9/11

by on September 11, 2018 12:18 PM

While President Donald Trump, Gov. Tom Wolf and others were gathered two hours away at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, members of the Centre County community came together on Tuesday morning to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and those who made heroic sacrifices in their wake.

Speaking in front of Old Main, Penn State senior Reagan McCarthy noted that many current students are too young to have their own memories of that day, but that it is important that all Americans never forget the events of that day 17 years ago.

"We owe it to those who lost their lives – including the brave police officers, fire fighters and emergency responders who put their own lives at risk so that their fellow Americans might see another day – to never forget the events that occurred on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001 and the effect they had on our great nation," McCarthy said.

McCarthy is president of the Penn State College Republicans, which annually organizes the non-partisan 9/11 memorial on campus. As part of the remembrance, 2,977 American flags were placed on Old Main lawn, one for each of the victims of the attacks in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania.

"I hope that all of us here today – regardless of where we’re from, what religion we practice or what ideology we pride ourselves on – can all come together to pay respect to our fellow Americans whose lives were cut short," McCarthy said.

Reagan McCarthy

The memorial also included a non-denominational prayer led by the Rev. David Griffin of the Penn State Catholic Campus Ministries and remarks by state Rep. Kerry Benninghoff (R-Bellefonte), as well as a performance of "Amazing Grace" by Shades of Blue a cappella group.

Griffin gave thanks for the first responders and others who provided aid in the wake of the attacks and expressed hope for the United States to continue to be "a beacon of freedom, a country of justice." 

"Comfort those who grieve the loss of loved ones and strengthen them," Griffin said. "Remembrance is a sacred moment when we raise up and hold to the light the eternal truth and the dignity of all people. May all who died in this tragedy now rest in your love."

Rev. David Griffin

Benninghoff recalled his own experience on 9/11, when he was early in his career as a state legislator. He had been on his way into the state Capitol when he was stopped by a security guard who told him he could not enter because of a matter of national security.

"I remember the goosepimples that went down my body, which they just did again, hearing that," he said. "For the first time as an American, one that’s free to come here and gather…, I was being told as not only a public official but as a member of the community that I couldn’t go in a public building."

The security guard, Benninghoff recalled, told him he needed to go and turn on a television.

"I felt overwhelmed with emotion and thought," Benninghoff said of seeing the second plane strike the World Trade Center.

It's important to remember the events of that day, Benninghoff said, but also how our thoughts and actions changed after the attacks.

"The most important thing that came out of that in a lot of ways is that Americans all became one," he said. We were not just New Yorkers, not just Pennsylvanians, Republican, Democrat… we saw people who passed each other on the street, sat with each other on subways and buses year in and year out talking to each other, comforting each other."

He that and the vow to never forget, should be the legacy.

"Most importantly, America rose up out of those ashes and said ‘We will not tolerate this. We will not stand for this,’" he said. "The comfort and love you saw that happened subsequently, I would hope, is the lasting memory and goal we should be holding onto. It’s why these ceremonies are so vital. We made promises to people that died that day. We made promises to family members that lost someone that day."

State Rep. Kerry Benninghoff

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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