Wheaton College group honors 9/11 victims with flag display
At age 20, Cameron Van Beek is too young to have memories of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, but that didn't stop him from doing something to help his peers remember the victims.
Van Beek was among more than a dozen students who gathered on the quad of Wheaton College at 6 a.m. Friday to install 2,977 small U.S. flags, one for each person who died on 9/11.
"It's gone over well and people are impressed with the whole visual aspect of it," he said. "We've noticed students stopping by, just to pay their respects and have a moment of silence."
The display was sponsored by the school's newly formed Young Americans for Freedom chapter, among more than 200 nationwide. The conservative group began the 9/11 Never Forget flag project on college campuses in 2003. This is the first year it was implemented at Wheaton College.
Senior Kristen Hermes said the flags were placed in a prominent location on campus, a spot hundreds of students would walk past on their way to class and chapel and that people from the community might see when passing through campus.
A handful of students were spotted Friday morning taking photos of the flags with their phones, pausing for quiet reflection and even adjusting a few of the flags that were falling over. Others, though, walked by without paying the display much mind.
Hermes said she was in kindergarten when the attacks occurred and while she doesn't remember much, she was aware of the somberness of the adults around her.
"It's crazy to think kids that are entering high school now weren't even born when it was happening; they have no recollection of it," she said. "That's another reason this is so important. Part of how we learn from history is remembering it, so that we don't repeat it."
The group also felt it was important to do something on campus to mark the 15th anniversary because one of the passengers who died on United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, was Wheaton College alum Todd Beamer. A student center on campus is named after Beamer, whose last audible words were, "Are you guys ready? Let's roll," as he and other passengers thwarted the hijackers from crashing the plane in Washington, D.C.