It should never take a tragedy to unite a people, but I like to think that Americans, like the students at the College of William and Mary, see ourselves as one large tribe. When Americans view a memorial, they are taking an active role; they become witnesses to the memories of the fallen, and it is up to us to make sure that those memories continue to live on in our thoughts and in our words. That is what my brothers and I try to do every Sept. 11. Nine years after that fateful day, I can still see the Twin Towers crumbling and the Pentagon burning — but nothing compares to the anger and sorrow I feel for the thousands of my countrymen who were lost on that terrible day. I find hat guarding the Sept. 11 memorial in he Sunken Garden each year has a two-fold effect: One, it allows me to pay my respects to the fallen, and two, it helps keep the victims’ memories alive as the years progress.
As the ceremonial honor guard of the College, the Queen’s Guard has the honor and privilege of guarding the College’s Sept. 11 memorial every year. I know my brothers and I are proud to do this service, not only for the College, but for the community as a whole. I feel that our standing watch over the wreath ensures it will remain a place of solace to which Americans can come and pay their respects to the innocent who were lost. I can’t help but feel emptiness when I see the thousands of American flags, knowing that each one represents someone’s friend or relative whose life was cut short in an unimaginable act of horror. I didn’t know anyone personally lost that day, but they were Americans, fellow citizens who not only deserve but demand our respect and remembrance at least one day each year. That’s why my brothers and I guard their memorial — it is our way of saying, “You are not forgotten.”
It was with great sadness that I heard that yet another American flag was to be added to the hundreds already dotting the Sunken Garden. The loss of 1st Lt. Todd Weaver ’08 in the defense of our nation affects all of us here at the College, because he was one of our own. I was honored, as were all of the members of the Queen’s Guard, to watch over the memorial of an American hero. Throughout the day, visitors would come to reflect at the memorial, some weeping and others reflecting silently, gently saying “thank you” as they left. They weren’t saying it to us, however; they were saying it to Lt. Weaver. No loss is ever easy, but I feel that guarding the Sept. 11 memorial allowed me to pay my respects to the fallen. Standing watch over the wreaths also allowed me to say “thank you” to Lt. Weaver, one of our own, who gave his life protecting an even bigger tribe. In the end, no matter our differences, we as Americans are one people, and we owe it to the lost to keep their memories alive in our hearts.