When the terrorist-flown passenger plans slammed into the World Trade Center, Nicholas Klein was six years old.
Despite his young age at the time, the University of Central Oklahoma freshman has memories of the day that changed — and yet did not change — the United States of America.
Regarding that fateful day, Klein remembers being at school in a class. He recalls how the word about what happened was spread through the school.
“Obviously, we didn’t know what was going on, but we knew that something was very wrong,” Klein said after planting his flags near Broncho Lake on the UCO campus.
Now, being a Boy Scout, he respects firefighters, police officers and all members of the military branches. If he isn’t participating in a ceremony just being at one to respect Sept. 11 is near and dear to his heart.
During Wednesday morning’s remembrance ceremony, UCO President Don Betz said he is reminded that new freshmen were six years old. The passage of time is inevitable, Betz said.
“What comforts me, and actually encourages me, is the fact that we are here today, not as individuals, but as a community,” Betz said. “And there’s power, and there’s honor and there’s purpose in what we do as a university, as a living, learning community and as a really wonderful state.”
Participants will be making their remembrances using the nation’s most powerful and enduring symbol — the U.S. flag, Betz said.
Edmond resident and Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb recalled how in many ways the United States is the same today as it was 12 years ago. Lamb thanked Betz for sponsoring a ceremony that isn’t required, and for making it a priority.
On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Lamb was a special agent with the Secret Service and he had just come off an overnight surveillance assignment. He was also assigned to a national joint terrorism task force.
He was in his neighborhood, pulling his son who is now age 13, in a little red wagon. They were walking down the street which was quiet because neighbors had gone off to work or school.
“It looked like Mayberry,” he said, referring to the popular “Andy Griffith Show” and the fictional North Carolina town known for its laid-back lifestyle and residents.
As he was approaching his home, his wife Monica was standing in the driveway with her hands on her hips. She had a look on her face fitting for what she had just learned about, Lamb said. Something was not right. She told him his pager and phones were ringing as federal colleagues were trying to reach him.
“That’s what was attacked — our way of life,” Lamb said.
Lamb said before Sept. 11, the United States had a reputation for its strength; post-Sept. 11, that has not changed.
“We’re still a symbol of strength and open harbors that welcome those that may not have been born here, to a new way of life, of freedom and of liberty,” Lamb said. “We were attacked on 9-11 because of those liberties.”
Today, Americans continue to exercise those freedoms on a daily basis, Lamb said. The military remains the finest, most professional, strongest force on the face of the earth, Lamb said.
Members of the Oklahoma Christian University community remembered Sept. 11 by placing 168 U.S. flags and 168 Oklahoma flags along Memorial Road on its campus grounds. It is a dual tribute to victims of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
They also gathered at the site where offspring of trees from the World Trade Center and Oklahoma City National Memorial are growing between the Gaylord University Center and the Mabee Learning Center on the OC campus.
OC officials believe it is the only site in the world outside of New York City to have survivor trees from sites of both attacks in one place. In recent years, individuals with connections to the Sept. 11 attacks have traveled to the OC campus on the April 19 anniversary to remember with Oklahomans affected by the bombing here.
Neil Arter, OC’s vice president for student life and dean of students, said he is reminded about where he was, what he heard and saw on Sept. 11.
“Having two young kids I remember thinking that the world has changed forever,” Arter said before the OC ceremony. “Today I got up and thought about that. Has it really changed? I think the answer’s probably yes. But how do we keep going on?”
Arter said he thought about all the heroes who responded to Ground Zero in New York City. Meeting some of them when they come to OC is like meeting modern day heroes, he said.
The memorial park on campus is especially a spot for guests to the university, Arter said.
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