One legacy of Sept. 11, 2001, is a country united to honor and remember those whose lives were lost on a day that changed America’s history, according to historian Jon Meacham.
Meacham, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist presented his speech, “Reflections of September 11, 2001: How has the world changed and what have we learned?” at Rider’s annual 9/11 commemoration, Peaceful Tomorrows.
“The attacks of 11 years ago compelled Americans to look inside themselves and decide what we’re made of,” Meacham said. “As Americans, we love that out of the many come one. 9/11 taught us we are one people.”
Meacham discussed his “passion for remembrance” and how all Americans should never forget “the first casualties of 9/11: the mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who went to work that Tuesday morning, not knowing they were combatants on a battlefield.”
“The loss of those 3,000 plus people, including people from this community, was due to the insidious evil of terrorism,” Meacham said in an interview with The Rider News. “It forced them into a war they didn’t know was being fought, which is part of the cowardice of terrorism. It was an act of war in an American city and their death was a slaughter of innocence.”
The victims from Rider’s community that President Mordechai Rozanski read off in the beginning of the ceremony included: Mary Yolanda Dowling, ’81Westminster campus; Kenneth Ledee: College of Continuing Studies; Gary Lutnick, ’87, Domenick “Mosh” Mircovich, ’83, Ferdinand “Fred” Morrone, ’77, Thomas Regan, ’80, Alison Wildman, ’93, and Kenneth Zelman, ’86, all from the Lawrenceville campus.
Courtney Ferrick, resident director of Wright Hall, had a personal connection to the World Trade Center.
“My dad used to work at the World Trade Center and I would go to work with him sometimes so I was pretty familiar with the buildings,” Ferrick said. “Even though my dad didn’t work there anymore, it was freaky to see that happen to a place I often went to as a kid.”
Sabrina Safran, a junior radio and TV major, agrees with Meacham’s view of the importance of honoring the victims of 9/11.
“Our history will never be the same,” Safran said. “The events of that day are infinite. The families who lost someone that day will carry that with them forever and those surviving family members will make sure no one forgets what happened.”
At the time of the attacks, Meacham was the managing editor of Newsweek and was living in New York City. In The Rider News interview, he spoke about how he spent the next 24 to 36 hours working in the office to help put out special issues of the magazine. Something that stuck out to Meacham was the sense of community and togetherness felt throughout the city.
“One of the things I found interesting, and this was by Thursday night, the restaurants were empty in Manhattan, but the pubs and neighborhood bars were packed,” he said. “I remember talking to the elevator men, the doormen, security guards, and asking, ‘Are your people okay?’ The attacks were partly aimed at shattering our sense of nation, but they [the terrorists] failed and we won.”
During his speech, Meacham read transcripts from passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, the planes that were hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center. Meacham recited a phone call between a passenger, Peter Hanson and Hanson’s father, in which the last words were, “Don’t worry, Dad.”
“Could there be any braver words than these?” Meacham said. “They break the heart, inspire tears and must serve for us a reminder of the spirit that made Peter Hanson a good man and which has made America a good nation. Americans’ devotion to liberty and opportunity is the one thing worth fighting and even dying for, and it is surely worth living for, which is the task which now falls to all of us.”
David Dewberry, assistant professor of communication, who was in the National Guard at the time of the attacks, feels it’s essential to think about where we have been since 9/11, but to look ahead as well.
“Bad things happen, but we need to remember how to overcome them,” Dewberry said. “While it’s important to remember our history, it’s important to keep looking forward.”
Meacham had similar sentiments regarding the future of this country.
“Americans like to look to tomorrow,” he said. “The fact that we have faced obstacles before that seemed insuperable and we’ve come through them should give us some hope.”
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