Aurora U. vigil honors 9/11 victims
By David Sharos For Sun-Times Media September 11, 2013 8:34PM
Aurora Chief Gary Bolt, with Amanda Luesmann, left, and Rosee Copeland | David Sharos ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 16, 2013 9:31AM
Students and faculty at Aurora University came together Wednesday to mark the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001.
A candlelight vigil in honor of those who died on that tragic day has become a tradition on campus for the past three years.
The vigil began at 7 p.m. and lasted for just 30 minutes, followed by a musical recital held at Perry Theatre on campus, which featured music from world conflicts ranging from World War I to the present.
A prayer session and moment of silence were held as well at the Wackerlin Center for Faith and Action on campus.
Barb Calvert, director of programming, said two students currently at the college began organizing the event three years ago on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, and have been involved with the vigil ever since.
“Those students, seniors Ross Copeland and Amanda Luesmann, helped plan the original vigil and have been active in getting others involved over the years,” Calvert said.
“In terms of planning the event, we’ve had as many as 15 students involved. When we met with groups to plan this, we’ve done a lot of talking about the event since a lot of these kids were less than 10 years old and don’t remember much about what happened.”
Calvert stressed that the focus of the annual vigil includes education about the event for those too young to remember, as well as to honor the first responders and those who died on that day.
Learning about day
Luesmann admitted that a lot of her memories from 12 years ago are tied to things that happened to older family members.
“I was in school at the time when the attacks came, and I remember they wouldn’t let us go out for recess,” she said. “No one talked about it at school, but when I got home, we had family members that were flying back from Holland, and they were over New York around the time things happened and were rerouted to Canada without being told why. We were glad to finally hear they were OK.”
Luesmann said that students continue to remain open to learning more about a moment in our history many were too young to understand.
“A lot of students over the years admit they don’t know much about the events of that day but they are open to learning about it and they seek understanding,” she said.
“Kids today see the body scanning at airports as a direct result of the attacks, but don’t always recognize that the whole airport security thing changed even before that.”
Wednesday’s program began with an introduction by Luesmann, followed by a reading of 9/11 historical facts by resident assistant Luke Dettlo. Speakers who followed included Gary Bolt, who is the school’s campus public safety director, and Professor Don Phelps.
Student Megan Webster sang Alan Jackson’s, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” before safety officers and first responders were recognized, followed by a prayer and closing remarks.
Bolt noted that there were important lessons learned from that day that have changed his job in police work and public safety.
“We have learned a lot since then in terms of sharing information and improving our communications,” Bolt said. “Our intelligence services and the 9/11 Commission have changed things, and we’ve made significant improvements in public safety because of that day.”
Students in attendance said that while many of them were too young to truly understand the events from a dozen years ago, remembering it now is important in light of the victims, their families, and how those events have changed our world.
“I remember I was in second grade, and when I came home, the TV was on and I realize now that day changed our world forever,” said Arynn Sims, 19, of Rockford. “I think it’s important we show our respect for those that died.”
“The events of that day had a big impact on my parents and my family,” added Dettlo, 20, of St. Charles. “I have a number of older siblings, and I remember their being awestruck by the things that happened. The more we learn about the day, we understand how sad it was and how tragic. This is a good opportunity for our country to come together and recognize and remember.”