SMU commemorates 9/11 first responders

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On Friday morning, Southern Methodist University paid tribute to 9/11 first responders. SMU police officers, as well as members of the Highland Park and University Park Police and Fire Departments, gathered at the SMU flagpole in the Main Quad. Students, faculty and staffs were also invited to attend.

As bystanders gathered around the flagpole, the commemoration began with an address to the crowd by Police Chief Rick Shafer and a bagpipe performance of “Amazing Grace,” followed by a speech by SMU President R. Gerald Turner.

President Turner spoke to the crowd, sharing how the SMU community responded to the events of 9/11 and the impact that it had and continues to have, even 15 years later.

“Whereas a lot of schools canceled class, we felt like that would be a mistake,” said Turner of Sept. 11, 2001. “We had a sense of community.”

The SMU community banded together 15 years ago on the day of the attacks and held an event three hours after the beginning of the attacks for the Dallas community where people gathered around the SMU flagpole.

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Many from around the Hilltop gathered to commemorate 9/11. Photo credit: Mollie Mayfield

According to Turner, the flagpole was the best place for the commemoration Friday, seeing as on 9/11 that is where students, faculty and staff gathered in memory and mourning.

SMU itself did not escape the effects of 9/11 even though the towers fell in New York. According to President Turner, the administration of SMU was very concerned about the response of the community and students, paying special concern to the Middle Eastern and Muslim students on campus.

“We were worried about our Muslim students,” said Turner of the campus’s response to 9/11. “Our international students from the Middle East were very concerned about what the response would be.”

“We had no idea what this meant,” said Turner continued. “Nearly 3000 people perished… Most of them were people who had just gone to work.”

Out of the 3,000 who perished, only 1,650 of those who perished have been identified.

President Turner called for the remembrance of the over 400 first responders who died serving the needs of others and the critical role that the police, firefighters and paramedics play in everyday life.

“They protect the foundations of this country,” said Turner of these first responders.

After President Turner’s address, University Chaplain Stephen Rankin gave a benediction to the guests in attendance, followed by a bagpipe performance of “America the Beautiful.”

Lieutenant Lance Koppa, Public Information Officer for Highland Park Department of Public Safety, remembers the grave impact of 9/11.

“I’m a 16-year veteran for Highland Park DPS and at the time Sept.11 occurred, I remember vividly where I was,” said Lieutenant Koppa. “I was seated in the living room of my apartment, getting a phone call from a friend saying ‘There’s something terrible happening in New York and you need to turn on the television.’”

“We watched the first tower fall,” said Lieutenant Koppa, beginning to tear up. “I knew there were firefighters in that structure rescuing people, and they lost their lives.”

Lieutenant Koppa urges the community of Dallas to remember that the police force of the city will consistently work together to protect its civilians.

“We are a unified first responder front—we want the community to understand that we stand together,” assured Lieutenant Koppa. “This is a loss to all of us, and so you’re hurt, we share your hurt.”

Watch below for a video of the tribute.

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