W&L Gathers to Honor Fallen in 9/11 Attacks The Washington and Lee University community remembered the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, with a memorial ceremony and placing of 2,977 American flags on Stemmons Plaza.
The Washington and Lee University community gathered at 8:46 a.m. on the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to remember the tragic events of that day.
The university observed a moment of silence while the University Chapel bells tolled in commemoration of the anniversary.
Following the tolling of bells, President Will Dudley addressed the campus.
“Unlike memories of most other traumatic and tragic events, 9/11 was different because we knew in the moment that our world had changed forever. We could sense the shift. Many of you were not yet born or were too young to grasp the enormity of the event. And yet, 9/11 meant the world would be a different place for you than it would otherwise have been,” Dudley said.
Robert Strong, William Lyne Wilson Professor in Political Economy, followed Dudley with his own reflections from that day on campus.
“The story I tell about 9/11, involves the building behind us. In 2001, Huntley Hall had state-of-the-art classroom technology,” Strong said. “We had a Comcast cable contract. When regular course activity came to a halt in the early hours of Sept. 11, classroom screens were tuned to live news coverage. There weren’t enough seats for all the students who wanted to watch.”
James Torbert ’23, Executive Committee president for the 2021-22 school year, and Leeden Rukstalis’ 23L, second-year law representative on the Executive Committee, both made statements. Rukstalis read from a poem by Kevin Powell titled “September 11: A Poem.”
“From the remains of this madness
I will ride the wings of the deceased
Into the clouds, scribble their names on the sun,
Erect a memorial to the moon, chant the blues
For New York City, then resurrect a world
Where a new-born rose will jut through the broken concrete.”
The program also acknowledged the two W&L alumni who perished in the attacks, Rob Schlegel ’85 and James Gadiel ’00.
“Rob and James were two of 2,977 people who died on Sept. 11, 2001. We honor their memories today as we join together, united by our collective grief, our collective memory and our collective appreciation for the sacrifices of so many,” Dudley said.
Schlegel was on the staff of the chief of U.S. Naval Operations at the Pentagon and had been promoted to commander just weeks before the attack.
“Rob had majored in French and journalism at W&L. He had considered a career in the media and worked briefly as a reporter in Lewiston, Maine, but chose instead to follow his father and two brothers into the Navy. Rob had won a Purple Heart and a NATO medal among numerous awards and had been promoted to the rank of commander in August,” Dudley remarked. “He was assigned to the Pentagon, where he scheduled and assigned cruise routes and dates for Navy ships. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate, Rob was a member of Chi Psi, the Ring-tum Phi, WLUR and the Jazz Lab Band.”
Gadiel worked in the equities department of Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
“James majored in economics at W&L and had just moved to New York to begin working as an assistant trader at Cantor Fitzgerald,” Dudley said. “Friends said he loved his job as much as he loved the New York Mets. Back home in Kent, Connecticut, they remembered James, or Jamie as he was known growing up, as a gentleman and a gentle man. He was a valued member of Sigma Nu fraternity.”
The backdrop for the ceremony was a sea of 2,977 American flags placed along the length of Stemmons Plaza by W&L student groups in honor of those who died in the attacks. Groups participating in the flag planting included College Republicans, College Democrats, Students for Historical Preservation, Catholic Campus Ministries, English Speakers of Other Languages, Habitat for Humanity, Hillel and Love 146. The placing of American flags is an annual tradition on the W&L campus.
In the weeks leading up to the ceremony, the student organizations participating in the flag placement also tabled on campus to help raise funds in memory of 9/11 for two organizations: the Families of Freedom Scholarship Fund and The Khaled Hosseini Foundation.
“I believe we can and must remain united in our shared sorrow for all those innocent men and women who died on 9/11. United in sympathy for their families and their friends. United in our appreciation for the first responders to those tragic events even as we stand united in our appreciation for the doctors and nurses who have given so selflessly during our current crisis, a global pandemic. United in our gratitude for all the women and men in uniform who continue to display great heroism to keep our country safe today,” Dudley said.