In remembrance of the September 11th attacks, I am posting a speech I was asked to give as the student response to the Purdue University community. It’s hard to believe that was twelve years ago. I will never forget being my sister staying up all night, helping me to desperately find the right words. I’m not sure what I would have done without her and my husband (boyfriend at the time), sharing their insights and ideas which shaped the text below. I remember being terrified to go on stage, thinking that there may be a hundred or maybe two hundred in attendance. Imagine what happened when I learned there were 6,000 faces out there (not to mention the television and radio audience). Yes…I puked. And I remember a voice in my head saying that my feelings and anxiety were incomparable to those directly affected by the attacks. I remember thinking, “this is not about me,” and experiencing a sense of calm as I took the stage. Each year on this day, I dig this out to remember and reflect, to honor those lost and those left and to hope for better in our children’s futures.
Text of speech by Purdue student Erin Taylor, student leader, to those attending the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance memorial service Friday (9/14) at the Elliott Hall of Music on the West Lafayette campus…
This week has revealed so much to me as I am sure it has to you as well. I have become aware of how little I know about the range of human emotions. I cannot imagine how it must feel to only be able to sit and wait for someone I love to come home to me. I have no sense of what it must feel like to search for someone … to see all that is left behind, or to feel the inexplicable joy of finding someone I thought I had lost.
As I was trying desperately to place the World Trade Center amongst all the buildings in the beautiful New York skyline, my ignorance of our world’s physical and cultural geography surfaced.
The media has gripped me in a way I didn’t know was possible. I have spent this week being sickened and drawn to what they might find or what might happen next, literally choosing to watch the news over going to class. But, as an outsider to the pain and suffering, the strongest revelation I have had is the discovery of my deep-rooted sense of patriotism.
I have seen the films of Pearl Harbor dozens of times, but not until recently have I truly felt the emotions that are associated with how it feels to have our country attacked for the ideals we hold dear. We have always been a beacon in this world, one of freedom and pride. But now that beacon has the potential to shine brighter than ever in the face of adversity.
It has overwhelmed me with a desire to reach out to help all those that I can. I am glad to see so many of you are here to share this with me.
Never in my short life have I seen such an outpouring of emotions from our country … especially from our generation. On every corner of our campus, I have heard the intense discussions about what this means and could potentially become. Students, more than ever, are seeing eye-to-eye during what could possibly be the most significant event in our country’s history, and this has filled me with hope that our country can unite and solidify its thoughts and efforts at a time like this.
To those here who have lost someone … I ache for what you must be going through. Myself and many others here today want to be there for you. If there is anything you need, please reach out to friends, roommates, professors and others. There are people around you who are willing to listen.
To those here who feel blamed … I want to say I am sorry. In coping with an event like this, the degree of humanity’s confusion shows. Like you, we are all looking for answers as to why this has happened and for who could have done such a thing. But it is not okay for us to blame one culture or one country as a whole. Condemning and harassing individuals in our own communities based on mindless judgments made to expedite the process of placing blame, instigating retaliation and finding closure, only weakens our home front and places our nation on the same playing ground as the terrorist attack on the United States. As an educated community we must come together and rise above such actions.
As a student body we need to become more educated about ourselves as well as of cultures and religions that make up our population. I challenge student organizations to host events that will educate us about cultural and international histories and customs so that we can appreciate one another. I encourage faculty to create courses or lectures to teach us how diversity can enrich our lives. And I encourage us all to think critically about what is being portrayed in the media.
To those who want to help … thank you. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from our student body – we are uniting and searching to do what we can to make a difference for those who are suffering directly from the New York, Pennsylvania and Washington tragedies. This unity, though inspired by disaster, is something to be proud of, something that will get our community through this time, and, I hope, something that we can continue far into the future.
September 11, 2001, brought moments that I have only experienced secondhand, but they are moments that have affected me, my daily life and the way that I view our country’s leadership, as well as her citizens. I am proud to call this country home. I am very eager to see what our country’s government can do without the day-to-day politics that have plagued us in the past. We are a country with boundless potential. My sincerest wish for the leaders of this country is that their decisions be wise, not only for the present, but for the future.
In years to come, people will look to this day as a turning point in our country. I hope that it will be one of greatness. I also hope in years to come that people talk about our generation. How we truly came together and put aside our personal differences to look to the common good. And finally how we have changed the world forever.
Tragedies like this seem to clear the mind of the unimportant things in life and focus us on the truly important. We focus on our friends, family and the ideals that we truly believe in. There are countless stories of individuals accomplishing personal victory in the wake of tragedy. Imagine what can happen to a nation of people with a focus on what is truly important!
I know that I have held those who are close to my heart closer this week. I have taken more time to think about how others around me are feeling and have felt in the past. I am inspired to step outside my life into the lives and views of others. I hope you can share this with me as well.
If you have money you’d like to donate or supplies you’d like to give, there are numerous student organizations collecting for this cause. In the weeks to come, there will be tables and drop-offs across campus for anything you wish to give.
To show your support, wear your yellow ribbons and display your flags.