UND remembers 20th anniversary of 9/11 attacks

Armacost speaks at UND, Grand Forks events honoring victims, veterans and first responders

UND President Andy Armacost spoke at the dedication of the new Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Forks, which also observed the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Photo by Shawna Schill/UND Today.

Those who share their memories of the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, often mention the beautiful weather and how the glorious fall morning was so violently interrupted by death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

Perhaps it was fitting that the UND and Grand Forks events held to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attacks occurred on beautiful fall days. The explosions, screams and chaos of 9/11 were replaced with moments of silence to remember the nearly 3,000 innocent civilians and first responders who lost their lives that day, as well as the military personnel who sacrificed their lives fighting the ensuing war on terror.

UND President Andy Armacost spoke at the UND ceremony Friday morning and a Grand Forks event Saturday afternoon, the latter attracting more than a thousand people to dedicate a new Veterans Memorial Park on South 34 Street north of the Columbia Mall.

Armacost, a 30-year U.S. Air Force veteran, said on Saturday following the 9/11 remembrance and park dedication, “To have the community build a memorial like this to all of our veterans, it hits home with me. It’s heartwarming, and it makes me realize that Grand Forks, as a community, really looks out for and takes care of its veterans.”

Other speakers at the event included Al Palmer, who retired after a 38-year career with UND Aerospace and formerly served as the North Dakota Air National Guard chief of staff; Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski, a UND Nistler School of Business graduate; North Dakota Air and Army National Guard Commander Maj. Gen. Al Dorhman, a UND School of Law graduate; and Col. Timothy Curry, 319 Wing Commander at the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

North Dakota’s 9/11 connection

Palmer recounted that the first three F-16 fighter aircraft to take off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to protect the airspace over Washington, D.C., were with the North Dakota Air National Guard.

“They (the pilots) were all University of North Dakota graduates and flight instructors that later became airline pilots,” he said.

Dorhman said there are 29 North Dakotans who’ve lost their lives fighting the war on terror. He also noted that Grand Forks police officer Cody Holte, who died last year in the line of duty while protecting others, was a member of the North Dakota National Guard.

“There’s something special about our veterans and those that raised their right hand and basically said, ‘Send me,’” Dorhman stated. “And we see it over and over again. Through the generations, veterans and men and women raised their hand, saying ‘Send me.’”

Bochenski said there is a lesson to be learned from the commitment shown by veterans and members of the military.

“When I look at our culture today, there’s way too much focus on self and ourselves as individuals,” he said. “What our military members and veterans show us is the need to contribute something larger than yourself. We could all take a lesson from that and live more selfless lives.”

Our Pearl Harbor

Curry, who called 9/11 this generation’s Pearl Harbor, said he is perhaps one of the few active-duty colonels with a father who served during World War II.

“In each conflict we’ve undertaken since World War II, Sept. 11, 2001, made clear to me that I was doing exactly what I was called to do. And I recommitted myself to help protect my loved ones to defend America and our way of life.”

After hearing stories from speakers at the dedication ceremony, Armacost said he was proud to be a member of a community that supports veterans and active-duty military members, as exemplified by the Veterans Memorial Park.

“This incredible new park holds so many such stories and so much importance to our community,” he said. “It represents each of our service members: those who served during conflicts and those who served during peace; those who have passed and those who are still with us.”

At the Memorial Union on Friday, President Armacost spoke during UND’s 20th anniversary 9/11 ceremony honoring those who lost their lives that day. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

On Friday, Armacost joined Kaelan Reedy, UND student body president, and Dawson Dutchak, student body vice president, in front of the new Memorial Union for the University’s annual 9/11 observance. UND Air Force and Army ROTC cadets presented the colors at a site adjacent to the union where two plaques and a tree memorialize the victims of 9/11 and honor those who protect the United States.

Reedy noted that although he was too young to remember the 9/11 attacks, they’ve had a profound impact on his life.

“I learned about 9/11 through its various aftereffects, through my studies every year around this time at school, through the tight security at airports and through the emotional impacts it had on my family members,” he said.

20 years later

“The impact these attacks had on our country – even as far away as Grand Forks, N.D. – cannot be understated,” Reedy continued. “And they’re worth remembering 20 years later.”

Armacost told about how he and his wife Kathy saved newspapers and magazines about 9/11 in a box that remained closed for nearly 20 years.

“We knew memories of that day needed to be preserved,” he said. “Last year, as we prepared for our move to Grand Forks, we opened that box. It was like a time capsule.

“What seemed like an event that happened an eternity ago also seemed like it happened just yesterday, and the emotions flooded back.”

UND Air Force and Army ROTC cadets served as the color guard during an event at the Memorial Union marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11. Photo by Mike Hess/UND Today.

Dutchak recalled that although he turned 2 years old on Sept. 11, 2001, a day that began with two airliners crashing into the World Trade Center towers in New York City, “We don’t need to have been there to feel its reverberations, and we are continually grateful for the men and women who protect us every day.”

Among those attending the Memorial Union event were UND Police Chief Rodney Clark. On 9/11, he was a new second lieutenant in the Air Force undergoing training for the military police as a first responder.

“I remember that morning,” he recalled. “We were on a bus when it stopped, the instructors got off, got us into formation and told us what had happened. I was very young in my military career, but it shaped what we did for the next 18 or 19 years. It absolutely changed the world.”

Remembering the events of 9/11 is important, Armacost said. He praised Reedy and Dutchak for being student leaders who helped organize the Memorial Union event and made their voices heard.

“It’s important for our campus to keep alive the memories of what happened that terrible day,” Armacost explained. “Those who remember what happened, those who honor the lives lost, and those who take proactive action on campus will hopefully make sure nothing like this ever happens again.”