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Students, panelists remember ‘this generation’s Pearl Harbor,’ 9/11

(From left to right) Lt. Gen. Stephen Hummer, Former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Maj. James Horn, Staff Sgt. Kevin Mrsny and Staff Sgt. Ashley Toca discussed the impact of 9/11 on different people, and how it affected the panelists themselves. | Jennifer Gonzalez/The Cougar

Grief, flames, rubble, screams, destruction and horror invaded the streets of New York City 16 years ago, when four planes — two in New York, one in Pennsylvania and one in D.C. — changed the history of the United States and the world. The Student Center South held its annual 9/11 memorial to commemorate this turbulent time in American history Monday.

Before 8 a.m., more than 15 pictures recounting key moments and honored people who perished on Sept. 11, 2001 lined the hallway next to the Student Center Theater.

“I thought (the exhibition) was very informative and touching,” said pre-business freshman James Clancy. “It is a reminder that we have to be stronger as a nation, and reminds us of all the people who lost their lives, and to stay strong as a country.”

Students, faculty and staff walked along the exhibition throughout the morning; among them was exploratory studies sophomore Victor Dinh.

“I was three years old,” Dinh said. “It is one of my first memories, and I can remember the TV being on. I wasn’t in school at the time, but I do remember seeing my mom’s face in shock (and) I wasn’t really understanding what happened until years later.”

A discussion panel was held in the Houston room in the Student Center from 10 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.

“This year we chose to do a panel (because) we thought it would be a good way to promote discussion and get a lot of different perspectives on an event that affected so many people,” said Ashley Toca, peer counselor for the Veteran Services office and moderator of the panel.

The panelists present at the event were former Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer, former Harris County Sheriff Adrian Garcia, Maj. James Horn, and Staff Sgt. Kevin Mrsny.

“(9/11) is essentially this generation’s Pearl Harbor, when we were attacked by Islamic jihadists,” Hummer said. “Today is a day of remembrance, Patriot Day, where, not only in the United States but all around the world, people remember that day and what happened. We need to continue to remember, but it is also a day to remember our freedoms, because that is why we were attacked, because we are a free country and so many countries aren’t, and they do not like our freedoms.”

Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students William Munson read Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 poem, “Recessional,” to close the session. He said the poem is still applicable today.

“The phrase ‘Lest we forget’ reminds us that every year on Sept. 11, America is going to gather honoring the memories of those three thousand plus that died on that day,” Munson said. “We remembered how ordinary human beings chose duty in the face of death as first responders continued to help people out even as the buildings were collapsing around them. We saw ordinary people choose self-sacrifice for ordinary strangers.”

On Jan. 29, 2014, a beam of structural steel from the World Trade Center was erected as a memorial outside of the Student Center.

“For the UH community it is important to maintain respect, understanding and the sense of community, that we can come together to remember this event,” Toca said.

Dinh said 9/11 became meaningful to American society.

“It definitely gives a tone of more respect among our neighbors and it gives the feeling that we are not always going to be safe, but our resilience and respect will bring us together as one, again,” Dinh said.

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