Faculty, staff and students gathered around the flagpole on Howard University's quadrangle on Tuesday to pay respect to the victims of 9/11. They joined legions of others around the world who also commemorated the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Alex McKeithen, 21, a music education major, grabbed the attention of students on the yard when he belted out an emotional rendition of "Over My Head." Through song, McKeithen reminded attendees of the noon-time prayer service that, "There Must Be a God Somewhere."
Altaf Husain, assistant professor in the HU School of Social Work, shared how the tragedy hit close to home. A man he knew went to work the morning of 9/11 and never returned to his family. Many people associated with Howard University were at or near the Pentagon when it was struck in a coordinated attack stretching from the Twin Towers at the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan to rural Pennsylvania.
Joseph Dillard, president of the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel assistants, acknowledged that he now has a better understanding of 9/11 and how citizens "learned to respect each other." Dillard also offered a prayer dedicated to individuals lost in the tragedy.
Jannah Umar was in sixth grade in 2001 when 9/11 occurred — just three days after she saw the Twin Towers. "I never knew that it was my last time seeing those buildings," Umar said. She encouraged people to come together to heal and said that prayers for affected families provide ease and "peace of heart."
Kamilah Majied, Ph.D., assistant professor of social work, also noted the importance of peace and justice.
"This was a day we decided together not to give up," said Brittany Foxhall, president of the Howard University Student Association, who called the attack an act of hatred and misunderstanding.
Representatives of the National Association of Pershing Rifles said the ceremony was also directed at the living and served as a symbol of empty hearts. They called 9/11 a day that ordinary people sacrificed for strangers and concluded the ceremony with the folding of the U.S. flag.
With expressions from Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and those from other religious backgrounds, the ceremony epitomized a sense of healing. Dillard said that the campus took the time to pay homage to those "good people whose lives are now gone."
Alex R. Hill II is a reporter for 101Magazine.net, a national magazine based at Howard University.