The College Republicans of SIUE brought the 9-11: Never Forget Project to SIUE for the fourth year in a row. The project serves as a reminder of those who died on Sept. 11 2001.
The project is an event through the Young America’s Foundation, which sends small American flags in remembrance of the victims to interested campuses across the country to set up memorials.
President of the College Republicans and senior political science major Myles Nelson, of Collinsville, Illinois, first brought the project to campus four years ago.
“I really didn’t see any event or even an email sent out reminding students of what happened in 2001, and I thought that it was really important for all of us to be reminded,” Nelson said. “We all made a pledge to never forget and I want to make sure that we never forget the innocent lives lost from radical Islamic terrorism.”
Since the College Republicans first brought the event to SIUE in 2016, they have expanded beyond just painting The Rock and displaying the flags surrounding it. For the second year, Nelson said they began showing the History Channel documentary “102 Minutes that Changed America.” Last year and this year, the group added a candlelight vigil around The Rock.
Senior public health major and College Republicans member Troy Kohne, of Oakville, Missouri, said he finds providing different events an important aspect in remembering the victims.
“I just think it’s really important that we not only have a display out in [the Stratton Quadrangle] with all the flags but also have the documentaries and the vigils because most people on campus now, I think, are too young to remember 9-11, so it’s a way to remember and honor the people who were killed,” Kohne said.
Nelson said he wants people to recognize even though the College Republicans host the event, the event is designed to be non-partisan. He said the group does not use the event as a recruitment opportunity, but as a means to bring individuals on campus together, just as he said the attacks 18 years ago transcended party lines.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, we weren’t Republicans or Democrats, we were Americans, and they attacked all of us, not just a political party, so, I think it’s important to remember that,” Nelson said. “Believe it or not, we were united as a country back then after that. That’s why it shouldn’t be this side or that side; when you attack one of us, you attack all of us in America.”
However, two flags in front of The Rock have some students questioning how nonpartisan the event really is.
Sophomore psychology and art major Meg Wyatt, of Edwardsville, said she thought the black and white flag with a single blue stripe could be construed as being in support of the Blue Lives Matter movement.
“I have an issue with some of the stuff that’s represented,” Wyatt said. “I think having flags like ‘Blue Lives Matter’ and ‘Cops Matter’ is a little suggestive. Especially with the connotations of 9/11 and the fact that it was a terrorist attack, and the ways that connects to race as an issue. I don’t know, I feel like they could’ve done well with not having the other flags there.”
Kohne said in response that the flag was not intended for this, rather that they represent the first responders on 9/11.
“They represent our support for first responders — especially on [9/11]. The first responders that died on 9/11, the first responders that died since 9/11 from injuries. [They’re here so] that we don’t forget them, as well,” Kohne said.