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Thursday, June 1, 2023


UH pays tribute to lives lost on 9/11

The University of Houston Veteran Services displayed a photo exhibit of images remembering 9/11. | Autumn Rendall/The Cougar

The University of Houston Veteran Services displayed a photo exhibit of images remembering 9/11. | Autumn Rendall/The Cougar

The University community Wednesday reflected on the events of 9/11 with a ceremony that paid tribute to those who lost their lives. 

UH Veteran Services hosted a panel of veterans and currently serving armed forces speakers whose lives and careers were impacted by 9/11. The speakers reflected on their memories of where they were when the tragedy struck and how that moment has affected the nation since. 

“It’s important for us as a University, as a nation, to remember what occurred on that day and the impact it had on our country and those who were affected,” said Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Services Richard Walker. 

After a presenting of the colors, a national anthem performance and a traditional wreath laying, there was a playing of taps, the bugle call for “lights out,” also sounded at military funerals. Then there was a reading of a list of Texans who lost their lives on 9/11.  

Panelist U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas Mitchell Jr. said that the 9/11 tragedy was a defining moment in history that brought American citizens together. After that day, he said the country was put into action. 

“I love what I do, but I’ve never forgotten what I experienced when 9/11 hit,” Mitchell said. “The call to duty was strong. We had more people deciding to wear a uniform, and we took it to those wanting to do things against us.”

Mitchell said the shock he felt when the first plane hit the World Trade Center made the event seem unreal, as if it were some bizarre joke or from an animated movie. 

“When I saw the second plane hit, that’s when it hit me,” Mitchell said. “This is just about as real as it gets.”

U.S. Navy and Army Veteran Jason Williams was the moderator of the event’s Q&A section, and said that many of UH’s current freshman class were either not born yet or at the most a few months old on 9/11. 

Emily Garza, a U.S. Navy operations specialist who was enlisted at the event, said that she was two when 9/11 happened. Garza said her memory of the event has always been through lessons in school or her family’s experiences. 

Garza recalled being in an American history class in middle school and hearing her teacher speak about where they were at the time of the tragedy. Garza said she remembers listening to phone calls made from the plane and beginning to understand the true impact of  9/11. 

“We’re basically reliving the experience through our parents and teachers,” Garza said. “We’re trying to grasp how major the incident was even though were weren’t really alive for it.” 

Lt. Col. Tacheny looked back on his career with the U.S. Air Force and reflected on the 135 lives ‘brothers and sisters’ he’s lost since 9/11. Tacheney said that two years ago on Memorial Day he stopped adding to the 135 since this number was already haunting enough. 

“That’s the ultimate sacrifice those guys will pay,” Lachney said. 

Chief Petty Officer James Boswell, U.S. Navy, talked about how important it is to remember 9/11 and other tragedies because it provides a sense of purpose to serve the nation.

“You have to know your past,” Boswell said. “You have to remember the sacrifices.” 

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Geoff McKeel thanked every armed services members past, present and future and encouraged the crowd to visit the 9/11 memorial in New York City. 

UH students can pay their respect on campus by visiting the actual steel beam from one of the fallen World Trade Center Towers located in front of the Student Center South. 

“It’s a humbling reminder as to what happened that day,” Mckneel said. “It’s very much a place of reverence.”

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