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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

No help from administration in honoring 9/11

Published: September 19, 2014
Section: Opinions

President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as “a date which will live in infamy.” When he said this, the United States was considering declaring war on Japan in retaliation, which Congress did promptly. Less than 75 years later, many, even on Brandeis University’s campus, cannot describe the incident. Our elders remember where they were when they found out about Pearl Harbor. When John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the nation similarly stood still in shock. Like Pearl Harbor, the event remained ingrained in our grandparents’ minds, never forgetting the horror. My mother was in high school English class in 1986 when the Challenger exploded on national television; her first response was a phrase my editor won’t let me print. Tragic days cement themselves in our minds, forcing us as a country and a species to never forget the terror. But our university has, and they should be ashamed for their neglect.

At Brandeis, there has been one official school-organized memorial for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks in my four years here. It was the 10th anniversary of the attacks and the weekend of the 24-Hour Musical. The directors blocked off time so we could all go to it. Surrounded by hundreds of people, the campus collectively mourned for our lost friends, family, colleagues and citizens. My sophomore and junior years, on that sorrowful day, there were no official school events. The memorials were merely digital from administrators and students alike: A tweet or a status defined remembrance. This offended me. Digital armchair activism does not define success for a goal, but rather lowers the standards for a goal itself. It gives one the illusion of success without producing anything at all. Digital activism only exists to stroke the ego. Tweets to save imprisoned girls from evil men did not free them; rather, they only gained mockery from their captors for our complacent natures and our idiocy. I saw armchair activism become the standard for society’s desires and I hated it. This year, however I stopped the shameful streak.

Three thousand flags on the Great Lawn were erected, displayed and disassembled on 9/11. Thanks to an outside organization dedicated to remembering that day, these flags were purchased. Thanks to my friends, fellow students and some wonderful bystanders, we erected the flags to honor those lost. The aforementioned organization funds schools across the nation in similar memorials. Thousands saw the flags on their campuses like we did on the Great Lawn. My fellow students shared the same goal: constant and respectful recollection of that day. The day our generation grew up. The day etched in our minds permanently.

This is our generation’s Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination and the Challenger disaster all rolled into one. This is the day we must never forget, because if we do, we will live in a passive world. The brave souls who fought back since then against the perpetrators were not passive. We should be active like them in our lives. Fight for change, not on the computer. Leave your Macs and picket. Wear and post signs. Do something that will change real people, not our digital personas. It took four hours to set them up. It took eight hours to stand in perpetual watch over them. It took another hour to take them all down. Thirteen hours of our day to erect a memorial by the same number of students. That’s honorable, and to them I give my undying thanks.

The administration and other departments of Brandeis, however, receive none. We have numerous bureaucratic organizations on campus: The Student Union, Department of Community Living, the Chaplaincy, Student Activities, Student Events, Academic Services. I could list bodies funded by the university that did not do a damned thing to memorialize 9/11. This university was able to organize a communal dinner for 3,000 people in less than a month but could not organize a memorial for the same with a year’s notice? Brandeis’ priorities are not in order. The administration, by its inaction, does not care about remembering the victims. If it did, it would have either organized and enacted its own event or have at least noted the day. For the past two years they did nothing. This year the memorial was student-run, and even then, the confirmation for the event was only sent the evening before to my email. For a service toward 3,000 humans dead to be finalized by six hours before the event is not only a disgrace, but also a sign that the red tape that lines student run-events must be cut. Students should not be the sole source of a 9/11 memorial on campus. Brandeisian officials should be ashamed of their armchair activism and passivity regarding recognizing this day’s role on our country and society.

All in all, the flags were my attempt to memorialize the victims and remember the tragic day. Brandeis University must continue a memorial and a remembrance day. If we forget the day and what it meant for our country, then we neglect our role as citizens. When I graduate in May, I hope Brandeis will never have a two-year gap again. Like the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Brandeis must stand ever vigilant and on watch. Brandeis must remember the forgotten and ensure their deaths have not been in vain. Brandeis must ensure due respect and diligence be offered; that is our duty. Brandeis must never again be derelict in duty.