MC Remembers 9/11

Tuesday marked the 11-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks against the United States — a day that remains seared in the memory of millions.  Many Americans were subjected to the horrors of war for the first time and experienced the type of violence that often plagues other parts of the world on a daily basis.  Some were too young to fully grasp what happened, while others simply watched their television screens in shock as great symbols of American strength were reduced to rubble in mere minutes.

For at least 2,700 people, it was also the last day of their lives.

Sept. 11 is a day of grief and remembrance that has changed the course of American history.  For the students and faculty at Montgomery College Rockville campus, it is also a day of bonding as they share their personal experiences regarding the tragedy.

“I think it changed everyone’s life,” said Susan King, the chair of the math department at MC Rockville.

“Every year on this anniversary, everyone kind of relives what happened on that day,” she said.

King recalled driving to the Rockville campus when she heard over the radio that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Center.

“At first I thought what everyone else thought ‘Oh it’s just an accident,’” King said.  About 15 minutes later, King said she heard over the radio that a second plane had crashed into the World Trade Center.  It was then, King explained, she realized what was happening.

“I got to campus, ran from my car to the Science East building, where we were at that time, and ran up the stairs,” said King.  “No one knew in my department — I had to tell everybody what was going on.”

While many adults can vividly recall what they felt during the attacks, some of MC’s newer students were too young comprehend what had happened until much later.

“I was in second grade,” said Tyler Alpizar, a first-year student and fire science major at MC Rockville.

Alpizar said he remembers doing homework in his living room when he saw the towers collapse on television.

“I can’t really say there was any insecurities about safety, because I was too young to know the whole situation,” said Alpizar.

Despite his youth during the event, Alpizar said his personal connection with Sept. 11 is still deep due to his volunteer service.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter, so the 343 brothers and sisters that I lost that day were all one big family,” he said.  “It was a tragic day, many lives were lost.  The families are in my prayers.”

Other students also had close ties with the victims of the attacks.

“It’s still definitely very emotional to think about,” said Kristin Leonhardt, a criminal justice major attending MC Rockville.

“I knew people that died there,” she added.

Leonhardt said her father worked for the Pentagon during the attacks, but was unharmed.

“When I was driving here this morning, they did a moment of silence — I was trying not to tear up,” Leonhardt said.

For other MC students however, focusing on the present is most important to them.

“It’s a tragic event, but closure is brought by moving forward,” said Cory Greene, a student and veteran Marine who served in Afghanistan.

Many Americans died on Sept. 11, but people seem to forget that more still die today fighting overseas, said Green. “We have to realize, we’re doing things that is costing lives, but those lives fall away from the spot light.”

Greene said patriotism should mean more than just being outspoken for one day of the year.

“Every day I sit there and think about the people I’ve lost personally from the Marine Corps,” he said

The war in Afghanistan was fought as a result of the Sept. 11 attacks, and has claimed the lives of 2,114 US service members.  In this light, even though the damage of the initial terrorist attacks ended years ago, the death toll still continues to rise.

As students move on with their lives, they still stop to remember what happened 11 years ago.  All of them carry the weight of the Sept. 11 tragedy with them in some way.  Some might carry more than others, but all carry the burden together.