For Americans across the nation, Sept. 11, 2001 will be forever engrained in our memories. As with other national tragedies, we can recall in an instant where we were, what we were doing, or what we were thinking when the Twin Towers fell that fateful morning. Flash forward to Sept. 11, 2013, just a few short days ago. I flipped on the news and watched President Obama partaking in a moment of silence. That’s when it hit me-I hadn’t gotten an email. As a Boston College student who receives what seems like countless emails a day, I was surprised to find no sort of 9/11 acknowledgement from BC in my mailbox.
Now, there’s no denying that BC takes Sept. 11 very seriously. The heroic acts of Welles Remy Crowther (BC ’99) are commemorated every year during the Red Bandana 5k Run sponsored by BC and the Crowther family. The names of BC alumni lost during the 9/11 attacks have been etched onto the Sept. 11 Memorial Labyrinth behind Burns Library. And, to be fair, a message honoring those alumni who were lost was posted on the BC Facebook page. But were there any events on campus remembering and reflecting upon what happened on that day? Were there any words of wisdom spoken by BC staff to provide some sort of guidance in a world where acts of terrorism are still not so uncommon 12 years later?
To be clear, BC did not forget about Sept. 11. I was simply surprised that there was no announcement of an on-campus event or reflection, no mass, no school-wide meditation on the 12th anniversary of those terrorist attacks. Especially in light of the bombings that took place during the Boston Marathon just months ago, I know that this anniversary resonated with me more than usual, and I’m sure others felt the same way. The reality that the U.S. still bears witness to threatening acts of terrorism is a sobering thought. For BC students specifically, this reality is all too clear when we think of the number of our classmates, friends, teammates, and siblings who have or could have been harmed by the bombs that went off at the finish line. I think it’s safe to say that every student who experienced Marathon Monday 2013 will remember exactly where they were, what they were doing, and what they were thinking on that day, arguably more clearly than on Sept. 11, 2001, when the majority of BC undergrads was only in elementary school.
The first anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings this April will be a challenging day on BC’s campus as we recall the tragedies that took place and find comfort in our strength as a community. The second anniversary and the third will probably be commemorated to this effect as well. And most likely the 10th anniversary in 2023 will be honored in a way that praises Boston’s resilient spirit as a city, and the nation’s powerful tradition of democracy. Without a doubt, there are people who will always remember that day, especially those directly affected by it. But when does this event transform into a textbook date? When does this significance begin to diminish? For some, it never will. For example, many of our parents and our parents’ parents still feel the weight of Princess Diana’s death. For kids from our generation, however, it simply sits as a date on a textbook page, supplemented by photographs of Princess Di found on old issues of Time and Newsweek.
So I never got an email commemorating 9/11 from BC, big deal. Although no one is to blame, it offers insight into the nature of traumatic events and how they are remembered on college campuses. As a BC student, I have come to expect the stimulating and complex discussions of current events sponsored by on-campus groups and BC administrators and professors (usually accompanied by free food). In continuing the conversation of such meaningful events as the Sept. 11 attacks and the Boston Marathon bombings, we can reflect on these incidents in a more intellectual way that allows us to gain a new perspective on it all. So even if BC doesn’t email us with words of remembrance, that’s okay. It’s our responsibility to remind each other and keep the conversation going, anniversary after anniversary.