|“Let us all work for and look toward peace, strength and continued goodwill to one another — and let us never forget,” says Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook
| Sarasota, Fla. (Sept 9, 2022) —The University of South Florida commemorated the 21st anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, with a special remembrance ceremony on the grounds of the Sarasota-Manatee campus on Friday.
The ceremony, organized by the USF Office of Veterans Success, is an annual tradition on the Sarasota-Manatee campus, a moment to remember the almost 3,000 lives lost in the attacks and to honor police officers, firefighters, other first responders and civilians who put their lives on the line to assist others, as well as members of the military who have and continue to serve to protect our nation. Many local public safety agencies and military branches were represented among the 150 people at the event.
USF President Rhea Law called 9/11 a “most solemn moment in our country’s history,” that the university was honored to commemorate.“
Twenty-one years ago, our country came together united by an unfathomable attack on America — and now our community comes together in this ceremony of remembrance,” Law said. “We celebrate the indomitable spirit that carried us through that terrible tragedy — and propels us forward today.”
Sarasota-Manatee campus Regional Chancellor Karen Holbrook said it was important for USF to remember what happened on 9/11 and to thank those who responded to the tragedy and sacrificed so much that day and afterwards.“
Twenty-one years later, we observe this day with the solemnity it still deserves as our university pays its respects to those who were lost on September 11, and we extend our gratitude to those who, today, protect and serve our nation and to the many veterans who honor us by joining us as our students, faculty and staff,” Holbrook said.
The hour-long event also included remarks from Peter Abbott, a former inspector with the New York Police Department who was among the first responders to the attack on the World Trade Center. A local children’s choir sang patriotic songs, and several first responders, military veterans and community members were among the audience. Danielle McCourt, director of communications and marketing at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, was the emcee.
Serving as a backdrop for the ceremony was a display of 2,977 tiny U.S. flags, each one representing a person killed in the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in western Pennsylvania on 9/11. Students, faculty, staff and other volunteers planted the flags on the campus courtyard earlier in the week.
Abbott, who after his retirement from the NYPD was Sarasota’s police chief for eight years, described how after the North Tower was hit by a hijacked airliner he ran to the World Trade Center from nearby police headquarters, where he worked as executive officer for the first deputy police commissioner — “the No. 2 to the No. 2 in the department,” he said.
Soon after he arrived on the scene, hijackers flew a second plane into the South Tower.“
When that second plane hit, I knew it was no accident. We were under attack,” Abbott said.
Abbott described in vivid detail the initial rescue effort and what he witnessed in the following days, hours and weeks at Ground Zero. After the towers collapsed, “the city really looked like a moonscape.”
Abbott interspersed through his remarks the names of fellow police officers and firefighters who were also at Ground Zero, many of whom perished on 9/11 or later succumbed to cancer and other illnesses because of what they were exposed to while trying to rescue victims of the attacks.
“It’s a tough memory, but I also remember how the country came together,” Abbott said.
Law said USF was proud to honor Abbott and other first responders.“
In spite of the painful memories, we can draw strength and hope from those brave individuals who rushed in to help save lives, even if it meant losing their own,” Law said.
Holbrook described her memories of Sept. 11, 2001, and the aftermath of the attacks.“On college campuses life continued in the traditional manner of the fall semester, but most significantly, we turned to one another to begin healing from the unprecedented and shared trauma in our homeland. I stopped taking for granted what the words of the pledge of allegiance and the patriotic songs we have sung by rote memory since childhood really mean,”
Holbrook said.“I believe we gained a deeper understanding about how much of the world lives every day — and how dramatically different and privileged our lives are in the United States,” she said.
The ceremony started with a flag-raising event in front of the Crosley Campus Center featuring a U.S. Marine Corps honor guard, then shifted to the campus courtyard.
In addition to the speakers, the lineup included the first-grade choir from St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, which sang “God Bless America” and a medley of military anthems; and bagpiper Ross Allen, a USF alum who played “Amazing Grace. An honor detail from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office fired a 15-gun salute, followed by a bugler playing “Taps.”
Also in attendance were military, first responders and community leaders. Manatee County Veteran Services Officer Lee Washington read an essay, “Old Glory.” A reception was held afterward in the FCCI Rotunda.
The event was organized by USF’s Office of Veteran Success, which provides specialized programs and services to more than 8,300 veterans, eligible dependents, active-duty service members, reservists and other students at the university.
Carlos Moreira, director of campus engagement for veteran success and alumni affairs at the Sarasota-Manatee campus, asked those in the audience to remember 9/12, because that “was the day we came together as one,” in response to the attacks.
Law and Holbrook said the 9/11 anniversary offers a valuable opportunity for members of the USF community to focus on ways they can serve others.
“I wish for all us to recommit to a sense of community, to all of humanity and to a willingness to help one another — the ingredients that fuel the resiliency of the American spirit,” Holbrook said. “Let us all work for and look toward peace, strength and continued goodwill to one another — and let us never forget.” ###
|Manatee County Veterans Service Officer, retired New York Police Inspector Peter Abbott, USF President Rhea Law and Sarasota-Manatee campus Regional Chancellor spoke during the 9/11 remembrance ceremony.Former New York Police Deparment Inspector Peter Abbott.Representatives of law enforcement, firefighters, the military and the civilin community participated in a flag-passing ceremony during the event.The first-grade choir from Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton watch as U.S. Marines march toward the site of the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus.Bagpipe Ross Allen, a USF alumnus, performed “Amazing Grace” during the 9/11 remembrance ceremony.A U.S. Marine Corps bugler performs “Taps” during the 9/11 remembrance event.
|About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida, a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success, generates an annual economic impact of more than $6 billion. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.