A community 9/11 remembrance event sponsored by the Occidental College Republicans took place on the evening of Sept. 10 as students of all backgrounds planted 2997 American flags in a quad on campus to represent the 2997 Americans that died in the attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001. While the focus of the event was meant to be one centered on respect and unity, some students began vandalizing American flags, disarranging American flags and throwing them into garbage cans, and posting posters around campus shaming the victims of 9/11.
According to a statement released by Occidental College Republicans: “At midnight early this morning, vandals crushed, snapped, and threw in the garbage every single flag. Not one was left on the ground. Not only did they destroy the memorial, they put posters and flyers up that shamed the victims of 9/11.”
“This memorial was meant to symbolize the coming together of this country in a time of crisis,” Occidental College Republicans Vice President Max Woods told Refined Right. “Those who destroyed the memorial represent the intolerance that has pockmarked universities across the entire nation. This isn’t a political message, this is a message to remember all who died that day.” Individual students headed by the College Republicans came together in light of this incident to dispel any notion that the majority of their student body had anything but respect for the victims of 9/11.
“We heard the news at 1 a.m. that [the flags] were all pulled out.” Woods then recalls leaving a social gathering to pick up the flags from the trash cans and put them back on the ground, when random Occidental College community members who were walking by at the time saw what the College Republicans were doing, and decided to join in. “We had about 15 people out there at that time pulling them from the garbage and putting them back in the ground. Half of these people I have never seen before.”
The College Republicans and community members then spent the next hour or so putting back all 2997 flags that had been thrown into various garbage cans around the quad into their original formation.
“I was told by a couple volunteers that the flag represented those who died in their family. Some of them who helped also knew victims who died in the events of 9/11,” Woods explained. “Random strangers put them back up because they didn’t see just a bunch of flags strewn across the quad, they saw the faces of the victims of 9/11.”
This congeniality of community comes as a stark contrast to what occurred this week on another California campus, where a gender studies lecturer tore down memorial posters honoring the lives of those lost on 9/11.
After putting back up every single one of the 2997 American flags that were thrown into the trash, the College Republicans stood guard over their memorial until 4 a.m.. When they returned later that morning, 50 flags had been again uprooted and thrown into the trash, with more kicked down in what the College Republicans called a “lazy attempt at vandalism.”
Occidental’s College Republicans put all the flags back up after both times their 9/11 memorial was defaced, and in their statement asked that all students in their community respect the memorial for the remainder of its time displayed on campus. “If you try to destroy it,” they said, “we will rebuild it.” As of publication, all 2997 American flags in Occidental College’s 9/11 memorial remain standing.
Ariana Rowlands contributed to this report.