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updated: 9/11/2017 6:50 PM

Flags foster Sept. 11 remembrance at Wheaton, North Central colleges

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  • A display of tiny flags -- one to represent each victim who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- takes up the lawn north of the Memorial Student Center at Wheaton College.

      A display of tiny flags -- one to represent each victim who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks -- takes up the lawn north of the Memorial Student Center at Wheaton College.
    Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • Students in the Young Americans for Freedom club at Wheaton College set up a display of 2,977 flags, one for each person who was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

      Students in the Young Americans for Freedom club at Wheaton College set up a display of 2,977 flags, one for each person who was killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
    Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • Flags to represent the life of each person who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks catch students' attention on Monday at Wheaton College.

      Flags to represent the life of each person who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks catch students' attention on Monday at Wheaton College.
    Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

  • A display of 2,977 flags to represent the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks takes up the lawn west of Old Main at North Central College in Naperville as part of the Never Forget Project, which involves similar flag setups at more than 200 campuses.

      A display of 2,977 flags to represent the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks takes up the lawn west of Old Main at North Central College in Naperville as part of the Never Forget Project, which involves similar flag setups at more than 200 campuses.
    Marie Wilson | Staff Photographer

 
 

Time can be in short supply on a college campus, but displays set up at two West suburban schools gave students pause Monday for a somber moment of remembrance.

The fields of small flags at Wheaton and North Central colleges honored each victim of the Sept. 11 attacks as the country marks their 16th anniversary.

Set up as part of the national 9/11: Never Forget Project sponsored by chapters of the conservative student group Young Americans for Freedom, the flag displays serve as "a visual remembrance for everyone who died," said Justus Hanson, a Wheaton College junior and president of the school's Young Americans for Freedom club.

Each field contains 2,977 flags -- one to represent each victim who lost his or her life when terrorists turned planes into weapons and crashed them into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Virginia and a field in Pennsylvania.

Hanson said the work of sticking each flag into the grass, some of them arranged to spell "9-11," made the human devastation seem more real -- especially to students like him who were toddlers or babies when the attacks occurred.

"It really puts it into perspective," he said.

Last year, club member Cameron Van Beek helped Wheaton College start its participation in the Never Forget Project, joining more than 200 campuses across the country that set up American flag memorials or host moments of silence. Walking past the flags after a chapel service Monday, he said the site is a good place for students to offer prayers and a way to reassure victims' families that their loved ones are not forgotten.

The Wheaton College display graced a campus with ties to the attacks through alumnus Todd Beamer, who died on United Flight 93. Before the plane crashed in Pennsylvania, Beamer could be heard saying, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll," as he and other passengers thwarted attempts to steer the aircraft toward Washington, D.C.

Beamer's son, Dave Beamer, now attends Wheaton College and plays on the football team.

The college has honored the late Beamer, as well as alumi Jeffrey Mladenik and Jason Oswald, who also died in the attacks, with a bench on campus and a plaque inside the Todd M. Beamer Student Center.

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