UMBC commemorated the lives lost during and after September 11 on its 20th anniversary. Photo by Montse Soto.
The red and white stripes of the American flag stood out against the cloudless blue sky as UMBC officers lowered it and the Maryland flag at half mast in front of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County administrative building , Friday September 10. As officers with flags attached, UMBC Naval Science Reserve Officer Training Corps cadets saluted to attention, Emergency Health Services students held an American flag banner that read “Heroes’ Flag” and the firefighters from the Halethorpe and Arbutus volunteer firefighters watched.
After a moment of silence, where only the sound of the wind and the flapping of flags could be heard, the Executive Director of the Office of Equity and Inclusion, Candace Dodson-Reed, spoke:
“On September 11, 2001, at 8:36 am, hijackers deliberately crashed flights 11 and 93 into the twin towers of the World Trade Center.
She goes on to take stock of the terrorist attack: 2,977 people died in the initial attack, of which 412 were firefighters, paramedics, police and other rescuers from New York.
For most undergraduates, September 11 is a historic event. Even the oldest of this year’s senior class were just babies when the attacks happened. However, many who remember the attacks feel the residential trauma more acutely as this year marks their twentieth anniversary.
“20 years. It’s a long time for something to be etched in your memory, etched in the memory of America,” said Captain Doug Simpkins of the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department.
UMBC EHS Clinical Coordinator Garry Williams recalls sitting in Sherman Hall as an EHS student himself. Learning the responsibilities of emergency personnel, he saw paramedics plunge into the crumbling towers.
“It’s still personal 20 years later,” said Williams.
UMBC Police Chief Paul Dillon was working at the University of Maryland, College Park when 9/11 happened. He remembers the terror that gripped the campus, especially after the third plane – Flight 77 – hit the western end of the Pentagon in Washington DC, less than 20 miles away. It reminds us even more clearly of the will of all rescuers, in New York and DC, to put themselves in danger.
“[Those first responders in New York City and D.C.] would do it again because that’s what we do in emergency departments. That’s who we are, ”Dillon said.
While remembering the trauma of 9/11, Vice President of Student Affairs Nancy Young also remembers the kindness of others as the entire country collectively grieved.
However, these 2,977 deaths do not reflect the true death toll from 9/11. 20 years later, September 11 still claims victims. Justice Department Receives Complaints Regarding 3,900 Additional People Who Died From September 11-Related Illnesses no later than Tuesday September 7th. These diseases arise from toxic fumes and particles that first responders and passers-by inhaled when the towers fell.
Even the 3,900 additional lives lost was not all the UMBC administration recognized. As a result of the post 9/11 policy, lives in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been lost. In recent news, the lives lost are particularly evident due to the involvement of the United States and the subsequent withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The American engagement in Afghanistan began in September 2001, just seven days after September 11, when then-President George W. Bush signed a common resolution which gave the United States a legal basis to invade Afghanistan later that year. Over the next 17 years, the United States used air strikes and ground combat to promote democracy in Afghanistan. However, its main objectives were to eliminate Al Qaeda – the militant and eventual terrorist organization led by Osama bin Laden which claimed credit for 9/11 – then the Taliban – an ultraconservative militant political and religious faction that now controls Afghanistan. .
America has spent its last three years in Afghanistan trying to get out of the war. In 2019, former President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of 7,000 American troops from Afghanistan as part of a peace deal with the Taliban. When President Joe Biden took office, he announced a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. By the end of August 2021, all US forces and embassy staff had left the country.
While Afghans have died throughout the 20 Years War, their recent deaths have attracted more publicity. Afghan coverage hanging from the wheels of an American plane and falling to death, articles describing the victims of a suicide bombing at Kabul airport and other recent news of lives lost in Afghanistan stitches a cause-and-effect sequence for the UMBC administration.
“Every incident is in the context of the story. There is a story that precedes 9/11 and a story after 9/11, and it’s all interconnected, ”Young explained.
“The decisions our government makes affect lives around the world,” said Dillon.
While no one could begin to answer the complex political questions posed by the US-Afghan War, everything was felt for the country and its citizens.
“I sympathize with the Afghan refugees,” Dodson-Reed said. “It’s hard to watch. I hoped that peace would win.