State Senator Jake Corman speaks during College Republicans annual 9/11 remembrance event
Penn State’s College Republicans held their ninth annual 9/11 remembrance Monday morning on the steps of Old Main, which included words from club president Grant Worley, Rabbi Hershy Gourarie of Penn State Chabad, and State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R).
The College Republicans also put out 2,977 small American flags (one for each American life lost on 9/11) on the Old Main Lawn, arranged to read “United We Stand”. According to Worley (senior, nuclear engineering), they began assembling the display at 7:30 that morning.
A small crowd of about 30, including a number of members of the College Republicans, gathered in front of Old Main around 11 a.m. for the remembrance. After brief remarks from Worley and Gourarie, the main address was delivered by Corman, who recalled his own memories of that day’s events before praising the “American spirit” and in the days following.
“They saw fellow Americans and were looking to help,” Corman said of the first responders,. “They weren’t worried about division; they were worried about their fellow man.”
He pointed out the divisive political atmosphere before that day, less than a year after a controversial election brought a widely criticized president into office. According to him, the best way to honor the spirit of that day was “to come together like we did after 9/11.”
While a call for unity was the primary theme of Corman’s speech, he did not offer any policy prescriptions that might help address the partisan divide, instead praising friendships that transcended politics. He offered the example of Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, who reconnected in their final years in spite of a bitter rivalry while still in politics. Corman also noted his own friendship with Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf (D), which persisted despite agreeing on “zero public policy issues.”
For the time being, this might be the only day of the year where that kind of unity seems feasible.
“It’s one issue that regardless of where you are or anything about you, it’s something that everyone can rally behind,” Worley said about commemorating 9/11.
When asked about the subsequent U.S. government and military responses 9/11 was used to justified (including wars in Afghanistan and Iraq which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands), the speakers were either reluctant or declined to comment.
In a phone interview, Corman said that he wasn’t trying to get into the politics of the event. Worley said that it was hard for him to be critical because he “wasn’t around at the time,” adding that “today’s not really about any of that.”
While Worley said he didn’t know anyone affected in the attacks, another member of the College Republicans had a little more personal investment in the date.
“My dad worked on the 102nd floor of the South Tower,” said David Needle, adding that the only reason he wasn’t in the World Trade Center at that time was because of a secretary who insisted on moving a meeting to the hotel across the street.
While the first-year finance major’s father escaped unscathed, others weren’t so lucky. “They spent months going to funerals,” Needle said.