Around 100 people gathered at the LOVE Statue on the afternoon of Sept. 10 to hear Penn President Amy Gutmann deliver remarks in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
In her speech, Gutmann emphasized the need to recognize all those who lost their lives that day, including 16 Penn alumni. Gutmann also recounted her own memories of the attacks, as she urged her audience to remember that critical day in America’s history.
“We remember all those who were lost two decades ago, because most people weren't as lucky as I was, and my husband was, and my daughter was," Gutmann said. "We honor the 16 Penn alumni who were killed that day. We grieve in solidarity with family members, the spouses and children and parents, brothers, sisters and friends, and so many others.”
Gutmann spoke about the importance of continuing to remember all those who lost their lives and were affected by the violence and terror that the attacks brought to the country.
“We pledge never to forget all who perished amid the terror, bloodshed, and needless, senseless, horrible, unspeakable destruction," Gutmann said. "We grieve, and we remember, and we will always remember the day of the attacks.”
Gutmann said she spent hours on Sept. 11, 2001 wondering where her husband was and if he was safe.
“My daughter, who was very young then, asked me, 'Do we know that Dad is safe?’ And I didn’t know then,” Gutmann said. “Finally, I found out he was brought into a bunker underground, because the building he was in might be the next target, but he was safe.”
Gutmann also recalled a memory of a headline published in Paris' Le Monde newspaper the day after the attacks, which read, "We are all Americans.” She urged her audience to remember the article's sentiments and focus on how people's differences can serve to make them stronger, rather than to divide them.
“That [headline], too, we must always remember. And we must remember to emulate that. We are all one,” Gutmann said.
She commented on the nature of the crowd watching her, drawing a comparison between the diversity of the crowd and the diversity of identities represented generally within the Penn community. Gutmann said that by respecting people's differences and caring for others, people can honor the memory of the people who died on 9/11.
“Each of us pledge to honor and to respect one another in care of our broad and ever more inclusive, beloved community,” Gutmann said. “What we do here [at Penn] can be done elsewhere. It can be done everywhere."
Toyce Holmes, the first-generation, low-income program coordinator for Penn's Greenfield Intercultural Center, was among the members of the Penn community who gathered to watch Gutmann deliver remarks. Holmes said that it is important to remember those who died, as well as those who have experienced discrimination in the aftermath of 9/11, which is still present today.
“I wanted to come out today because I think it's important to remember and honor the people that were lost on that day, and those that are still affected due to illness and different things,” Holmes said. “We need to be supporting people that have experienced violence even after that, due to the discrimination that occurred. We want to continue to support ideals of peace and love for every person.”
Following 9/11, Muslim Americans became increasingly likely to experience discrimination in spaces such as airports, workplaces, and medical settings. A poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, conducted ahead of the 20th 9/11 anniversary, reported that more than half of Americans held unfavorable views toward Islam.
Wharton first year Gabriella Gibson, who also attended the event, said that she felt moved by speakers’ remarks on the importance of remembering the attacks, especially because she was not yet born to remember the event herself and has only learned about it through books and others’ recollections of that day.
“Hearing [the speakers’] remarks and their experiences with the [9/11] attacks gave me a new perspective on how, if we unite as a community, we are so much stronger, and we can accomplish so much more than if we were to focus on our division and let hatred bring us down,” Gibson said.