Students, faculty, staff, and community members gathered in front of Central Hall on Wednesday at noon for a 9/11 memorial ceremony organized by Hillsdale’s Young Americans for Freedom.
Junior Carl Miller, president of Hillsdale’s YAF chapter, welcomed the crowd, saying the anniversary of 9/11 is a solemn occasion but also “a day of gratitude to firefighters, law enforcement, and service members, and a day of gratitude to God for his inestimable blessings and gift of Jesus Christ.”
Onlookers bowed their heads as Rob Stewart, senior pastor of Countryside Bible Church, commenced the ceremony with prayer. He thanked God for his blessings and asked him to help us remember his constant love through the changing circumstances of our world.
Following Stewart’s prayer, about 20 young Hillsdale Academy students recited the poem “American Flag” by Erin Ryan.
“So wave your flag,/And show your pride and never let it fall;/And remember why we pledge each day/‘With liberty and justice for all,’” they said during the last stanza.
Miller then led onlookers in singing “God Bless America” while the Hillsdale Academy students helped Associate Dean of Men Jeffery Rogers, wearing his Navy dress uniform, unfurl an American flag.
Guest speaker Scott Hephner, Hillsdale’s fire and police chief, then shared with the audience his memories from the day of the terrorist attacks and his perspective on their implications. He said that on that day, 18 years ago, law enforcement members, fire fighters, and civilians alike demonstrated extraordinary bravery, and we must honor their sacrifices.
Hephner praised the passengers on Flight 93 and the civilians who ran to the Twin Towers and the Pentagon after they were hit to help in any way they could.
“Nobody had to ask them,” he said. “They just did this out of commitment to public service.”
Hephner was touched by the people of Hillsdale’s response to the attacks, recalling that, shortly after the attacks, community members came to the police department to offer assistance.
“Just having that knowledge that people are willing to commit to serving no matter the end shows that anyone can step up. Because that was shown to us that day, we know it will happen in the future,” he said.
After Hephner’s address, Teacher of Music Christopher McCourry played “Taps” from the outdoor landing of Central Hall while the audience turned to face the flagpole. Wearing their dress uniforms, veterans saluted the flag, which was flying at half-mast.
College Chaplain Adam Rick called for a moment of silence to remember the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and offered a closing prayer.
Senior Alan Kotlyar said he appreciated Hephner’s message.
“Having a local — someone from the community — brought it closer to home,” he said. “It was a very solemn ceremony. You could feel everyone uniting on this day for a higher purpose.”
Marine Corps veteran Don Denning remembers learning of the attacks from his office in Massachusetts. He said the service was the perfect opportunity to commemorate 9/11 victims.
“It was very pleasant,” he said. “A nice way to honor those who gave all.”
Miller said the memorial ceremony has become a reminder to everyone on campus of the memory and meaning of 9/11.
“It’s not only important that we remember the attacks, but also that we make a concerted effort to come together and honor those who sacrificed so much to give us the freedoms we enjoy today,” he said.