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Community members gather to remember 9/11 attacks, 22 years later

Officials and naval officers gathered near Kogan Plaza Monday to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Jennifer Igbonoba
The temporary tribute on the south side of Lisner Auditorium featured nine flags dedicated to the nine GW alumni who died during the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001.

Updated: Sept. 14, 2023, at 11:17 a.m.

Officials and GWU Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps officers commemorated the 22nd anniversary of Sept. 11 in Kogan Plaza Monday morning.

More than a dozen community members gathered for a 15-minute ceremony hosted by GW Veterans — a student organization which supports military-affiliated students on campus — held in front of a temporary memorial along the Midcampus Walk on the south side of Lisner Auditorium — with nine flags dedicated to the nine GW alumni who died during the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. Community members shared their experiences of where they were on 9/11, reflecting on feelings of nationwide alarm and unity that came out of the events that day.

Andy Sonn, the assistant dean of student support and military services, said he remembers “vivid” memories of confusion when the attacks happened while he was working on campus in Amsterdam Hall. Sonn said his first thoughts were of the safety of his loved ones and GW students.

“That day, we spent a lot of time meeting with students whose parents worked in NYC,” Sonn said in an email. “The phone system was clogged, so many individuals were unable to reach family members until the late afternoon or evening of 9/11.”

Sonn said his spouse taught third grade at an elementary school roughly three or four miles from the Pentagon and his cousin was working in the World Trade Center’s South Tower the day of 9/11. He said he decided to speak at Monday’s service because of the event’s personal significance to him and because of his long-term work with GW’s military-connected students.

“​​The ceremony brings forth a few emotions — sorrow for those who lost their lives that day, gratitude for first responders and servicemembers and a sense of unity that came out of 9/11,” Sonn said in an email.

Capt. Jean Marie Sullivan, a commanding officer of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, said she was deployed on a ship in the North Sea during the 9/11 attacks. She said a few days after the attacks, a German warship approached their ship and she could see the American flag hanging above the German flag on the mast as a sign of respect and solidarity toward the United States, which she said rarely happens as every warship flies their own nation’s flag at the highest point of mast.

She said there was not a dry eye on board the ship after seeing the flag.

“When I think about 9/11, I don’t really reflect on why the people attacked us. I reflect on how and who responded when we were attacked,” Sullivan said. “And so I honor today to all those who responded here in America, but I also honor all those who responded the world over.”

Amy Cohen, the executive director of the Honey W. Nashman Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, said she and her daughter were in D.C. when a hijacked plane hit the Pentagon building on 9/11, killing all 64 people on the plane and 125 people in the building. Cohen said it was important to remember those GW lost that day and respond to it with “an opportunity to try to find common ground.”

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to talk about unity and strength,” Cohen said.

Jasmine Spencer, a program associate for GW’s Military & Veteran Services, read the names of the GW alumni who passed away on 9/11 — Sara M. Clark, Andrew K. Friedman, Melissa M. Harrington Hughes, Robert F. Mace, John P. O’Neill, Todd H. Reuben, John Sammartino, Andrew Stergiopoulos and James T. Waters Jr.

“It was a moment of fear, fear and confusion, and also great sadness,” Spencer said.

Sherry Leung, the director of student support in the Office of Student Life, said she decided to attend the ceremony to not only remember the people who sacrificed their lives that day but to honor a personal memory for herself. Leung said she grew up in New York and was nine when the attacks happened.

Leung said the day presents a time to reflect on the communities she belongs to and how people can better care for one another.

“I remember my classmates sharing that they lost a family member. I remember going to class the next day and half my class being missing,” Leung said. “I think it’s a moment for me of reflecting on where I am now but also honoring the memory of those who were lost that day.”

This post was updated to correct the following:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that officials held the memorial in Kogan Plaza. Officials held the memorial along the Midcampus Walk, on the south side of Lisner Auditorium. We regret this error.

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About the Contributor
Fiona Bork, Assistant News Editor
Fiona Bork is a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communication from San Diego, California. She is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 assistant news editor for the Student Life beat.
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