Students hold candlelight vigil to commemorate 9/11 victims

Omar Gamboa

With a candlelight vigil under a darkened UT Tower, the UT community came together Sunday to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and pay tribute to the nation’s fallen troops and firefighters.

The event included a speech by Operation Desert Storm veteran Derek Israel. Now a commander in the American Legion Travis Post 76, Israel was a police officer at the time of the 2001 attack on American soil. Israel said the tragedy reminds him that today’s college freshmen must have had an experience with the 9/11 terrorist attacks similar to his own with America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

“There was a lot of confusion in my childhood about our involvement with Vietnam, and the same must not happen to this generation of post-9/11 students,” Israel said.

Sponsored and organized by the Epsilon Beta Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the vigil began with an introduction by sorority member Amber Austin, followed by a performance of the national anthem by Innervisions Gospel Choir.

Austin said both of her parents and three of her brothers have been in the military, and one brother is currently stationed in Qatar. She said she believes its essential to help organize events like this, simply because if not, people may forget.

“I think it’s our age that makes us a little ignorant,” she said. “It may be the war itself that keeps reminding us. I know it has kept my family cautious for a long time.”

After artificial candles were passed out to the crowd for a group prayer, many attendees took public vows for both community service and stronger appreciation to soldiers and public service workers. Patricia Potyka, executive director of Texas Campus Compact, then spoke of her organization’s fire safety campaign throughout Texas.

“We give students a voice by letting them thank firefighters on our website and giving opportunities for community service,” Potyka said.

In relating her organization’s recent involvement with the Central Texas fires and 9/11, Potyka said she was especially proud that UT hosted an event commemorating the ten-year anniversary of the tragedy.

“It’s a sad day, but college students should remember they do have a voice and can make a difference to firefighters through our website and with events like this,” she said.

The candlelight vigil was one of several weekend events throughout the University and the city of Austin paying tribute to fallen heroes on 9/11. The University provided student activities such as an opportunity to leave notes remembering the tragedy, a musical performance by carillonneur Tom Anderson, and a panel discussion on Friday as well as the production “september play,” developed by theatre and dance graduate student Courtney Sale.

Also, more than 50 firefighters participated in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb hosted by the Texas Firewalkers at 300 W. 6th Street early Sunday. The walk commemorated the 343 firefighters who died during the Sept. 11 rescue efforts.

Printed on September 12, 2011 as: Students honor 9/11 victims