SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 11, 2018) – USF Sarasota-Manatee remembered victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and paid tribute to survivors, first responders and members of the military with a special ceremony in the campus courtyard on Tuesday.
At times joyful and moving, the remembrance included a selection of patriotic songs by a children’s choir from the St. Stephens Episcopal School in Bradenton, a flag-raising ceremony by the U.S. Marine Corps 4th Amphibious Assault Battalion color guard and the playing of taps on trumpet by a representative of the Sarasota Military Academy.
But highlighting the event most poignantly were the speeches of keynote speaker David Kotok and USFSM Regional Chancellor Dr. Karen Holbrook, which recalled the day of the attack 17 years ago and its aftermath.
Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, was in the south tower of the World Trade Center when the north tower was struck by a high-jacked passenger jet. Moments after he evacuated, the south tower was struck as well.
As he turned and watched, he was reminded of his experience as an Army captain in the 1960s and instinctively counted the “flash-to-bang” time of the crash to determine its distance from him, as if a mortar shell had landed.
“The explosion in the second tower took up 10 stories of the building in height and 10 stories in width,” he said. “It was the loudest sound I have ever heard with the exception of an artillery or mortar shell. Maybe it was louder, I don’t know.”
Then another thought occurred, about New York’s financial district being called the “canyons of Wall Street” because of the shadows cast by the buildings.
“Looking beyond the World Trade Center and down Pine Street and Wall Street … the thought of the ‘canyons of Wall Street’ comes to me, and the shadow leaps out, and this misunderstood brain remembers the 23rd Psalm.
“Something came to me and it said, ‘David you are looking at the valley of the shadow of death. Do not be afraid. Do not have fear. This is evil. Do not fear it. Next, move your feet now. Help others and get out of here.’ It was a spiritual moment for me, idiosyncratic for me. It changed my thinking for the rest of my life.”
Also poignant, Dr. Holbrook talked of how, after the attack, she was reminded of the common humanity of all people and felt an obligation to connect with others.
“Everyone was changed in some way,” she told attendees. “I remember a particularly intense feeling of the need to make eye contact, to greet in some way, to reach out, to connect with people I passed on the campus of the university where I was at the time, even people I didn’t know. All of us were together in our suffering and for the nation and for the people who suffered intolerable loss and we all understood what others were feeling as well.”
The ceremony lasted about an hour. A day earlier, students, staff, faculty and others met to plant 2,977 flags – one for each victim of the 9/11 attacks – into the courtyard lawn.
Carlos Moreira, USFSM’s veteran services administrator, presided over the ceremony.
“The patriotism and resiliency of the American people shined brightly on the 11th of September 2001,” he said.
Also in attendance were USFSM student ambassadors, representatives from the Sarasota Military Academy, state Rep. Margaret Good, state Rep. Wengay Newt Newton, a representative from Congressman Vern Buchanan’s office, and several teams of first responders from Sarasota and Manatee counties, including: Sarasota County Fire Department Station 4, Cedar Hammock Fire Department Station 4, Manatee County Sheriff’s Department, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department, the USFSM and New College Police Department and the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport police and fire departments.
Two videos combining photography and audio of the event can be viewed below: