On September 11th 2001, 2,996 people died from an indescribable horror that shook America.
On September 11th 2015, the Malvern Prep upper school community went the entire day without formally recognizing that it was 9/11.
There was no moment of silence. There was no prayer over the loudspeaker. There was no mass. There was no ceremony. It was like any other day. The American flag flew high at the top of the pole.
Dr. Joseph Oechsle, a firefighter for the Norriton Fire Company, and teacher at Malvern from 1979-2014, organized a memorial service each year since 2001. A feature part of that service, was a drum beat symbolizing the loss of each individual. However, Oechsle said that when he reached out to do the ceremony this year, the administration informed him it was not necessary.
Head of School Mr. Christian Talbot confirmed Oechsle’s interest, but added, “There were others who expressed interest in doing other things.”
“There was also a feeling from some teachers and administrators that this many years later, students don’t really have a personal connection to it the way they used to,” Talbot said. “So maybe it wasn’t as valuable as it was the first ten or so years.”
We may not all have a personal connection to the day 9/11, but we all have a personal connection to the effects of it – the fear, the War on Terror, the Patriot Act, the rewrite of American history. Our world changed that Tuesday morning. We do value the stories of the servicemen and victims who didn’t see the sunrise Wednesday morning.
The servicemen “were ordinary men doing their ordinary jobs extraordinarily well under extraordinary circumstances, and someday, we may be called to do the same when life’s circumstances warrant it,” said Oechsle.
The victims were casualties of a war they did not know existed.
Courageous firefighters ran into the burning towers. Innocent people were trapped and left to see the unattainable safety of the most populous city in America 1,000 feet below them. People who could have been our next door neighbors stood up against terrorists, crashing a plane before it reached the White House. Families were torn apart, and hundreds of children — now young adults — never saw their parents return.
These heroes deserve to be recognized and remembered by all, Malvern included.
Malvern must have formal services to honor our fellow citizens who gave their lives on September, 11th.
There is value in this.
We can all learn the lessons of dedication, love, and sacrifice in a way that we cannot in the classroom. As an Augustinian Catholic institution, these lessons are at the core of our principles. Without reflecting on this day, we lose a vital part of our education.
The deep, resounding hits of the drum at the ceremony brought those lessons and the tale of 9/11 to life despite the years between 2001 and each ceremony. The service was overwhelming to students, but nothing compared to the chaotic events of September 11th, 2001.
As time drags 9/11 further into the past, many new students will not have a direct personal connection.
The power of this ceremony creates that personal connection.
CORRECTION [9/15/15]: A previous version of this story stated that the entire Malvern Prep campus did nothing to honor the anniversary of 9/11. According to Middle School Head Mr. Pat Sillup, the middle school held a ceremony led by Sillup and Fr. Chris Drennen on the morning of Friday, September 11. Sillup said the middle school watched a CNN video and listened to quotes from people at Ground Zero.