On Sept. 10, 2021, members of the Kingswood Oxford Upper School gathered in Roberts Theater for an assembly to honor the lives lost on 9/11. Senior Speaker of the Upper School, David Shi, opened the assembly by greeting the audience and introducing Head of School Tom Dillow. “I wanted to take a few minutes to share why it is important for us to take time today in this assembly, and tomorrow as a nation, to remember 9/11,” Mr. Dillow said in his opening remarks.
Twenty year ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, two hijacked commercial planes intentionally crashed into the twin towers. A third plane slammed into the Pentagon while another plane, supposedly destined for the White House, went down in a field in Shanksville, Penn. after the passengers purposely crashed it after realizing they had been hijacked. Nearly 3,000 people died on that day and life as Americans knew it, was permanently altered.
Mr. Dillow began by discussing how the lives of Americans were changed forever after 9/11. He mentioned how security tightened and how our national homeland security expanded. “For instance, before 9/11 you did not have to take your shoes off, or your belt off when you went through airport screening,” Mr. Dillow said.
To bring the content of the assembly closer to home, Mr. Dillow discussed the legacy of Jeffery Bittner ’92 who was working on the 89th floor of the second tower on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. Unfortunately, he, along with thousands of others, lost their lives on that tragic day. “We honor him at the end of each school year with the Jeffrey Bittner Prize at the prize assembly, which is awarded to exceptional students in the sophomore class who possesses a strong sense of self-determination and selflessness,” Mr. Dillow said.
Before Mr. Dillow left the stage, he asked the community to bow their heads in a moment of silence to honor the lives lost 20 years ago. After the moment of silence, Mr. Dillow thanked those in the audience for their attention, and Dean of Students Krista Sahrbeck took the stage.
Ms. Sarbeck greeted the school before introducing a video about the boatlift in Manhattan that occurred on 9/11. She also let students and faculty know that if they were uncomfortable with any part of the video that they could leave the auditorium, recognizing that the video presented real, raw footage from the actual boatlift event.
The video showcased a lesser-known event on 9/11: the boat evacuations in Manhattan. In the video, boat owners and the U.S. Coast Guard were seen rescuing hundreds of terrified people off the island of Manhattan, which had become a dust cloud following the collapse of the towers. After a distress call went out from the U.S. Coast Guard, hundreds of boats were able to achieve the largest sea evacuation in American history.
For many faculty members in the KO community, it is hard to believe that 9/11 occurred 20 years ago, as the memory of that day lives on vividly inside of them. But for the students, none of whom were alive on that day, it is crucial to remember the events of 9/11 so that their significance and the lives that were lost are never forgotten.