University honors victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks
Emily McConville | Monday, September 12, 2016
Notre Dame’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter started early Sunday morning, planting 2,977 American flags on South Quad in memory of the 2,977 people who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. As they worked, the bell of the Basilica tolled, ending at the moment a hijacked plane struck the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York 15 years earlier.
Several minutes later, a prayer service in memory of the victims began. The Notre Dame Marching Band played the National Anthem. University president emeritus Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy welcomed the several dozen who ringed the sidewalks around the quad, including Notre Dame police officers and firefighters.
Malloy recalled the events of 9/11 on Notre Dame’s campus: how thousands people had come to South Quad for a Mass, how 350 people had sung in a choir, how members of the Muslim Student Association had attended together, and how at the next home football game, against Michigan State, fans were given American flags to wave, and a collection had raised “a very substantial sum of money” for the victims.
“It’s important that we remember this pivotal event in American history, that we celebrate the lives of those who were lost, that we remember all those who put their lives at risk trying to save those who were affected by the incidents in the various locations,” Malloy said.
The he led the group in prayer.
Many of the Notre Dame students who attended the service were toddlers on Sept. 11, 2001, when another hijacked plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. Indiana Congressman Tim Roemer drove there later that afternoon.
“There were first responders, there were volunteers, there were people bringing food by literally the truckload and the carload,” Roemer said. “Right away America was responding in the best possible fashion to pitch in to patriotically help out and show that terrorism would not prevail.”
In the next several months, Roemer, who earned his Ph.D. at Notre Dame and served on the House Intelligence Committee, sponsored legislation to establish and then served on the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States, known as the 9/11 Commission.
The Commission investigated the causes of the 9/11 attacks and made policy recommendations to prevent future attacks. Many the resulting policies reverberate today, like the creation of a Director of National Intelligence and a national counterterrorism center, as well as increased funding for intelligence. So do other policies, such as the PATRIOT Act, which expanded surveillance.
“We’ve seen 9/11 and the aftermath be one of the defining issues and moments in American history,” Roemer said. “I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say our Revolution, our Civil War, World War II, our civil rights struggle and the 9/11 attacks have been events that [most] impacted our culture, our sense of safety, our politics, our budgets and our foreign policy.”
Law professor Jimmy Gurulé was also in Washington, D.C. in September of 2001. He had taken a leave of absence from Notre Dame to serve as undersecretary for enforcement of the U.S. Treasury Department. He felt the plane’s impact on the Pentagon, he told a group of students and alumni at the Eck Center auditorium Friday.
Gurulé’s talk, organized by the Alumni Association, was about his work stopping the financing of terrorist organizations, a job he said began hours after the attacks. He was at the White House when George W. Bush told the country the U.S. was now fighting a new kind of war, one with a non-state actor, a terrorist organization.
“At that time the concern was, ‘Is there another imminent terrorist attack, and are we doing everything that we possibly can within our power and control to prevent another terrorist attack and save innocent human lives?’” Gurulé said. “That was the mission.”
Gurulé spent the next two years identifying individuals and businesses who could be reasonably suspected of sending money to terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and Hamas, trying to undermine their infrastructure and freezing $125 to 150 million in assets.
Now, Gurulé said, blocking funds to suspected terrorists is still a priority, though methods have to shift since ISIS, unlike al-Qaeda, controls territory and funds itself internally, meaning there are fewer donors with accounts to freeze.
Gurulé said he continues to speak and write about counterterrorism financing, as well as about financial and legal issues that those affected by 9/11 face today: He recently testified to Congress in favor of legislation that would allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi government for information. That bill was recently passed by both the House and Senate, though President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it.
In the meantime, Gurulé teaches courses on national security and international criminal law, areas directly affected by 9/11. He said helping students who were children when the attacks happened understand their significance is priority.
“[Students] need to be informed,” Gurulé said after the talk. “[9/11] is affecting the exercise of governmental power, and they need to be informed to make sure that the governmental power is being wielded and exercised in a way that is responsible and in accordance with the Constitution and in a way that doesn’t violate civil liberties.”
After Malloy finished his prayer Sunday, the assembled walked silently to the Grotto where they lit candles and prayed. Many linked arms and sang the “Alma Mater.”
“We all have our own stories about where we were on that day, but it’s good to look back and reflect on the things that happened and pay tribute to them like we did today,” Kimmy Sullivan, Notre Dame student government’s director of constituent services and the organizer of the prayer service, said.
As those at the Grotto dispersed, sophomore Jordan Schilling returned to South Quad, where thousands of small flags surrounded the large one at half-mast. Schilling had attended the service to pay her respects and said she appreciated the Grotto procession and “Alma Mater.”
Schilling’s school in Minnesota had opened its doors — and she, at four years old, had started attending — just a few days before the attacks. She said she and her school had always felt a sense of solidarity with those affected.
“I grew up living in a world like this, in a world that’s affected by [9/11],” she said. “It’s important to feel like this is connected to our lives, because it is. … We should honor and keep this in the forefront of our minds.”