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College Students Nationwide Mark 9/11 In Somber Campus Observances

The University of Michigan has been home to bitter campus disputes among several groups of students in recent years, but today it will be different, predicts student Derek Draplin.

“There’s not a lot of things that bring students of all stripes together,” Draplin told The College Fix, adding that a 9/11 observance last year that allowed students to place memorial flags in a grassy area at the campus flagpole did just that.

“Students didn’t really care who funded it, or the background of the organization putting it on,” Draplin said. “They put politics aside, and placed flags in remembrance for our country.”

This year will likely be the same, as today at the University of Michigan as well as at hundreds of other campuses across the nation, Sept. 11 observances will forge students together in somber, patriotic unity. In campus ceremonies, they will honor the lives lost in the terrorist attacks 13 years ago today, as well as the many others lost in the battlefront fighting terrorism ever since.

“With radical Islam continuing to terrorize the world, it is crucial that our young people and our schools remember the American lives lost and understand the challenges we face today,” according to Ashley Pratte, spokeswoman for Young America’s Foundation, which helps organize observances at more than 200 colleges today with its “9/11 Never Forget Project.”sept11.YAF

Often, it’s the College Republicans, Young America’s Foundation chapters, and campus liberty groups that lead the charge in organizing such observances. Such is the case at the University of Michigan, as well as Pepperdine University, where an observance launched in 2008 grows larger each year.

“Since that time, the display has come to be a focal point in the Malibu community to gather in remembrance and meditation,” Pepperdine alum Chris Garcia told The College Fix.

Among the fallen to be recalled today will be Tom Burnett, alumnus of Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. Burnett was aboard United Airlines Flight 93 and was one of the passengers to storm the cockpit and disrupt the attack planned for that flight.

Like at the University of Michigan, the Pepperdine campus has struggled over the years with unity. Garcia said the observance always brings students and the campus community together, providing a place to mourn and heal. Today, even the campus officially provides the flags.

At the nearby University of Southern California, a 9/11 memorial ceremony will unveil a 100 pound I-beam from the World Trade Center, a powerful symbol that will remain on the campus as a permanent reminder of the lives lost in the name of freedom.

The memorial was brought to fruition largely by USC student Jennifer Massey, who “made calls, sent emails, set up meetings, bugged people, and gave presentations” – a hard-fought flurry of effort to secure the memorial as a living testament to that moment in American history.

“This memorial will mean we stand in solidarity with New York, with what happened that day,” Massey told The College Fix. “We are not going to forget, either. It didn’t just happen to New York, it happened to all Americans.”

Tonight’s unveiling ceremony will go beyond the USC community, and include appearances by local dignitaries, musical performances, and the presentation of colors by the USC Army, Air Force, and Naval ROTC Color Guard.

And while many campuses don’t have an I-beam from the World Trade Center to gather around today, the Young America’s Foundation does its part to rally its student members to mark the occasion by peppering their campuses with thousands of flags.

Since 2003, YAF students at more than 200 universities annually remember 9/11 by installing 2,977 flags on each of their campuses – one for each victim of the attacks.

“If it weren’t for the foundation’s student activists, most schools would ignore the anniversary of September 11,” YAF officials contend. “Even more worrisome the professors who continue to blame America for the attacks. … Young America’s Foundation’s student activists understand the significance of 9/11 and hope to raise awareness about the importance of eradicating terrorism.”

This year marks the second anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks in Benghazi, Libya, and the loss of American life there. With that, the foundation now includes four more flags with its 9/11 memorials – one for each American killed at the American consulate in Benghazi in 2012.

College Fix reporter Dominic Lynch is a student at Loyola University Chicago. Editor Jennifer Kabbany contributed to this report. Derek Draplin also writes for The College Fix.

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Main Image: PickSelatedJim/Flickr; Inside – Young America’s Foundation YouTube Screenshot

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