Last year, Rev. Cody Nielsen organized a campus-wide dinner and memorial service behind Coffman Union to commemorate Sept. 11.
This year, his approach will be different.
“Somehow, someway, we must mark the day,” said the director of the United Methodist campus ministry. “But we can’t mark the day by continuing to remember the tragedy. We have to find a way to look toward a better opportunity for unity.”
With each age group that moves through the University of Minnesota, perspectives on Sept. 11 shift. Many upperclassmen still hold visceral memories of that day; for freshmen, the memories may be hazier but still impactful.
This year, Nielson didn’t plan a service. Instead, he and the Interfaith Campus Coalition are delaying a Sept. 11 remembrance until October, as part of a larger interfaith event.
Kelsey LeRoy’s church also held a large service to commemorate the 10th anniversary but didn’t offer one this year.
The University senior said she has strong memories of a teacher running into her fifth grade class and delivering the news on that Tuesday morning 11 years ago.
“All of the sudden, they were having us all call our parents and make sure no one was in New York,” LeRoy said.
One of her family friends was killed in the attacks; she puts flowers on the grave every year.
While LeRoy was in line with other fifth graders to call her parents, freshman Jamie Wyatt came home to find her mother in tears.
“No one had really explained to me that it was an attack,” she said. “I didn’t realize at all what was happening until maybe later in the school year.”
Younger students associate the attack more with the effects now than with that exact day.
Freshman Erik Tilseth said his lasting impression of Sept. 11 consists of body scanners and tiny shampoo bottles.
“Looking back on it, I see the changes that have been made [in security], and I feel they should stay the way they are,” he said. “I agree with most of what’s in place to protect our country.”
In accordance with these younger students’ perspectives, Nielsen said that in marking Sept. 11 this year, his focus is not on mourning but promoting unity out of any instance of religious violence.
The Interfaith Campus Coalition will be holding events in front of Coffman for the first week of October. Nielsen said events will focus on Sept. 11, the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin and other tragedies to illustrate opportunities for tolerance.
Personally, Wyatt is making a similar transition from mourning the events of that day to reflecting upon them.
She said on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, her high school held a large assembly with local firemen and a performance from the school’s band.
This year, she stopped at Coffman with a friend to make a sandwich for the homeless as part of Chabad’s Good Deed Marathon.
“We did this to kind of just honor it,” Wyatt said. “I think that’s kind of why we stopped. We don’t want to forget.”
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