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Communal Candlelight Chases Darkness From 9/11 Remembrance

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President Davie Jane Gilmour passes a symbolic flame to a student during Pennsylvania College of Technology's 9%2F11 memorial service.On the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history, the Pennsylvania College of Technology community gathered Sunday in tribute to the lives lost and valor born on that horrific Sept. 11.

In the midst of national mourning and television retrospectives both “moving and oddly uplifting,” college President Davie Jane Gilmour paused to remember a date so memorable “we don’t even have to add the year.”

College employees and enrollees alike some of whom were in elementary school when hijacked passenger planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania assembled in the presentation room of the Student and Administrative Services Center.

“I’ll never forget where I was when I heard the news that morning,” the president said of what quickly turned into an anything-but-ordinary workday. “Even those of you who were 9 years old will carry this with you forever.”

While a still-grieving nation debates the fallout from 9/11 from polarizing wars to delays in airline travel caused by heightened security Gilmour emphasized the positives that rose above the ashes, smoke and sadness.

A student%2Ffirefighter wears his patriotism on his sleeve%3A an American flag patch and a commemorative 9%2F11 lapel pin.“Ordinary people became heroes that day,” she recalled. “They did things they never thought possible; they made a difference. I never again will look at a first responder, a firefighter or a police officer the same way. They never thought once, or twice, about their own lives.”

“Thank goodness it became cool again to be part of the military,” she added. “Thank goodness it became cool again to defend this country, to defend the things we took for granted.”

The president also welcomed the renewed sense of patriotism that followed the worst-ever attack on U.S. soil, remembering that the college’s large flag (under which Sunday’s event was to have been held) was out for repairs when the towers fell.

“The first calls we got were from people asking, ‘Where’s the flag?’ it’s such a part of the community and can be seen from so many places that we had to scramble and get a replacement.”

The brief service, moved indoors due to threatening rain and lightning, also included violin solos of the national anthem and “God Bless America” performed by Leah Nason, a Loyalsock Township High School student whose father, Brad, is a faculty member in the School of Integrated Studies; a reading by student Katey E. Landry of a memorial poem; a candle-lighting, accompanied by video clips and photographs underscored by Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?” and an opportunity for silent reflection.

As the president’s candle caught its glow, the flamepassed from person to person and row to row; a symbol of enduring spirit, an echo of optimism in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.

“I like to think that we’re all better people because we treat one another differently now,” Gilmour said. “That, even if only for a moment, we get our priorities right.”

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