24 Hours of Remembrance in Honor of 9/11
September 11, 2001 is a date that is burnt into the fabric of American society due to the thousands of lives that were senselessly lost in a terrorist attack on American civilians. In the years following, Norwich University students began an annual tradition of honoring the lives lost through a Remembrance Ceremony in honor of Patriot Day.
The tradition has become important not only for Norwich University, but also for the surrounding community. As the nation’s first private military college and birthplace of ROTC, Norwich offers an especially unique environment for such important ceremonies. It is a time when Cadets and civilian students can share in the memories and emotions of the local Northfield and greater American communities, which many Norwich students hope to serve one day.
The remembrance ceremony lasts 24 hours and begins at 0000 (12 a.m.) Sept. 11 and ends exactly 24 hours later at 0000 Sept. 12. When the clock strikes midnight and the date officially changes to the eleventh, Cadets begin Vigil Tours. These tours are marched by Cadets along the Tour Strip, directly in front of the nearly 3,000 flags which students had placed in the ground the day before. This strip is solely reserved for specific purposes, one of which are Vigil Tours where Cadets are selected to render an honor as part of a 24-hour watch. “For no other reason should it be crossed,” said Headquarters Company Commander C/MAJ August Guerrieri.
Vigil Tours are typically marched in 30-minute intervals, but because of the immense interest from Cadets, this year’s time slots were reduced to 20 minutes to ensure more students would have the opportunity to directly participate in the memorial. “I think this is a good problem to have,” said Guerrieri. Cadets with personal ties to the tragedy received priority when selections were made for those who would march Vigil Tours.
On days of remembrance the Upper Parade Ground (UP) is oddly quiet for a normally bustling college campus. Students, faculty, and staff refrain from speaking. If they must speak, it is in hushed tones or whispers at the edge of the UP so as not to distract from the memorial. The silence is another form of respect adding to this already solemn occasion, and at a school filled with over two centuries of traditions, this is another tradition passed from individual to individual. The silence is not mandated but is yet another way for each person on campus to willingly have a small part in the memorial.
At midnight, the first Vigil Tour was promptly begun by Regimental Executive Officer C/LTC Thomas Ward. This honor is usually bestowed upon the Cadet Colonel, but Regimental Commander C/COL Henry Dennee had a prior obligation to represent the Norwich Air Force ROTC Department at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference in Maryland. 71 Cadets followed Ward’s footsteps that day, and Guerrieri took the first step of the final Vigil Tour at 2340 (11:40 p.m.).
Vigil on the Hill
The UP was quiet and lit by few lights as people watched a Cadet walk the Vigil Tour. As the clock neared 2145 (9:45 p.m.), three buglers opened the doors of Jackman Hall and made their way down the stairs. At exactly 2145, they raised their horns and began to play. When their song rang out on the Hill, the entire Corps of Cadets, civilian students, faculty, staff, and local community members gathered on the UP; and just as humbly as the buglers emerged from Jackman, they returned.
Although an impressive crowd had now gathered, silence permeated the UP. Several minutes later, two buglers exited Jackman. The first took their position next to the cannon and field of flags representing the thousands of Americans who were needlessly killed on 9/11, and the second took their post on the edge of Dewey Hall. The pair of buglers were immediately followed by a group of bagpipes and a select number of drums who took their positions on the landing outside Jackman Hall.
With the musicians in place and the crowd gathered to pay respects, all was silent and still, outside of the lone Cadet on their Vigil Tour. The clock struck 2200 (10:00 p.m.) and echo taps rang through campus, marking the first time of the entire day that there was any sound on the UP. As the sound of their final notes faded, the bagpipes and drums commenced. They again exited silently.
The crowd that had gathered continued to pay reverence after the ceremony concluded. Some bowed their heads and folded their hands, while others kneeled alongside the field of flags. Those that came to remember the tragic day all paid respects differently, though there was one constant: silence. The crowd’s silence was permanent; there were no conversations or remarks. Even the night itself remained silent, without so much as a cell phone screen breaking the gentle darkness.
The UP returned to a motionless silence as the ceremony ended, only broken up by the Cadet walking their Vigil Tour, slowly and silently marching in front of the flags. The quiet footsteps a solemn reminder of the thousands of feet that ran towards the Twin Towers in the face of danger. Although the nation was torn apart on this day 22 years ago, our country’s heart still beats for the victims of the senseless violence on Sept. 11, 2001.
(Video produced by Office of Communications/Norwich University.)
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Norwich University is a diversified academic institution that educates traditional-age students and adults in a Corps of Cadets and as civilians. Norwich offers a broad selection of traditional and distance-learning programs culminating in baccalaureate and graduate degrees. Norwich University was founded in 1819 by Captain Alden Partridge of the U.S. Army and is the oldest private military college in the United States of America. Norwich is one of our nation's six senior military colleges and the birthplace of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC). www.norwich.edu
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