NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – On a day when many Americans across the country took time to reflect on the tragic events that took place 13 years ago, nearly 40 students from Tennessee State University gathered today to pay tribute and honor those who perished in terrorists attacks that killed close to 3,000 American citizens on September 11, 2001.
Students from two freshman composition classes gathered around a 20-foot American flag to read inspirational stories of those who lost their lives and share their own personal experiences, while each held onto a portion of the giant flag.
“I’ll never forget the feeling of loss we felt that day,” said Heidi Williams, professor of English literature. “The people that lost their lives were just going about their everyday life…going to work, taking care of their families…so we need to remember their sacrifices and make sure our students remember the significance of the day.”
During the 30-minute tribute in Poag Auditorium, students had a chance to either read the uplifting and moving tributes they wrote as part of their research for the ceremony, or speak of personal experiences from that day.
“It’s a day I won’t forget,” said Deonta Young, a freshman from Nashville, as he read the story of a 27-year old woman who was on the 32nd floor of the Twin Towers when the first plane struck. “She was starting her day and just perished. I can only imagine how horrific that day was.”
This is the third year Williams has held the ceremony for her first-year students, and the first year she has joined forces with fellow teacher, Bob Bradley. The ceremony served two purposes. The first was to remember the day and the impact it had on the country. The second was to teach through experienced-based writing according to Dr. Lucas Powers, professor and chair of the Department of Languages, Literature and Philosophy.
“We have a course revitalization grant through the Tennessee Board of Regents where we are weaving Freshman Composition classes and Service to Leadership courses together,” added Powers. “This is giving students the opportunity to not only participate in service-learning classes, but also write about their first-hand personal experiences in class.”
It’s personal experiences that Williams hopes all the students in attendance will remember not only today, but also one they hold on to. If nothing else, she told them, “…this should create a thought of service and selflessness, and the desire to serve.”
“This changed how I and many Americans viewed the country,” she told the students as they unfurled the flag. “Sometimes we get caught up in the everyday things in life. Today is a day to reflect and I urge you to conduct just one random act of kindness for someone.”
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With nearly 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 42 undergraduate, 24 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.