It is absurd to me that something this egregious would ever happen in America, much less at UVA.
On Saturday morning, Young Americans for Freedom at UVA commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11 with a beautiful display and ceremony. 2,977 American flags were planted in the amphitheater, each one representing a life lost. Five candles were lit on the stage, each one honoring a sector of heroes whose sacrifice saved lives. The flag memorial was set to stay there for the remainder of the day.
But Saturday night, students came back to the site to find it in ruin. Flags were stomped on the ground, the table on which the candles were placed was flipped over and crushed, and posters were strewn about— one ending up on a sidewalk on the Corner. The remains of a beautiful tribute to those lost in tragedy lay on the ground. Something that required hard work to create, something that stood as a symbol of unity and remembrance, lay in ruin on the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, right in the center of UVA’s Grounds.
It is shocking that someone could be so filled with hate and evil to actually deface a memorial of the most tragic terrorist attack in American history. If you are stomping on flags that represent innocent lives lost, it is probably time to re-examine your values. And maybe it’s time to ask yourself: am I really on the right side of history?
I’ll give you a hint: you’re not. Imagine looking into the face of someone who lost a loved one on 9/11 and telling them you do not care. Now, imagine that very same person watching as you stomp down a flag erected in honor of their loved one. It is unacceptable and ridiculously disrespectful to the memory of 9/11 victims. What’s more, it’s even more disheartening that a student at UVA would think to do something like this— a place where students presumably carry themselves with utmost honor and integrity.
Regardless of your political views, or even of your opinion about the decisions the United States made to try and thwart global terrorism after the attacks, it should not be remotely on your mind to deface a memorial commemorating the death of 2,977 innocent people. It should not be on your mind to destroy something that was put there to remember heroes and innocent people. It should not be on your mind to trample American flags erected in memory of the fight for freedom, liberty, and justice. Any thought in your mind that told you that this was okay should be completely removed from your moral compass— that is, if you even have one. It should not matter to you what organization made this memorial, who was in attendance, or who spoke. It should not matter what events came before this event or after it. It should not matter if you agree or disagree with American values.
What matters is that we never forget the tragedy of 9/11. It should matter to you that people came together to remember fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, families and friends. It should matter that today, twenty years after 9/11, we can take time to reflect, to count our blessings, to remember to hug our loved ones a little tighter, to call our parents a little more often. Remember to look back and see that our country is beautiful and relentlessly strong. Remember that our country will not stand for any attack against freedom. It should matter to you that 2,977 people gave their lives just because they were going to work, boarding a plane, or selflessly volunteering to save others. It should matter to you that the innocent passengers on Flight 93 saved lives by resisting and fighting back against the pure evil of terrorism, and that there were, and still are, men and women in uniform who will bravely storm burning buildings to save you, even when they know their own lives are likely on the line. It should matter to you that we properly memorialize their bravery and their sacrifice. It should matter to you that we never forget 9/11, and it should mean something to you that people came together on Saturday to ensure that doesn’t happen.
Our country experienced something truly horrific twenty years ago. But in the weeks following 9/11, America came back even stronger— we found unity, strength, and resilience. We found a way to connect to one another based on our common identity as Americans, and we found pride in the strength of our country. I wish people today still did.