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JSU to host communitywide 9/11 remembrance

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the New York City attacks

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Calling it a “significant” day, one that “resonated throughout their campus,” Dr. Lori Owens, professor of political science at Jacksonville State University, has been busy this summer planning a 20th anniversary 9/11 remembrance. 

The special ceremony is set to run from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Thursday at the Stone Center theatre on Jacksonville State’s campus. 

The remembrance is sponsored by the JSU American Democracy Project and is open to the campus and community. A panel of speakers will include JSU employees and community residents affected by the events of 9/11. This event will be livestreamed on YouTube for those who cannot attend.

"I felt like this was a nice thing for us to do for those who died and for those families who endured the loss of a loved one," Owens said. It is also a tribute to those families, she said, whose sons and daughters were deployed to Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq and Pakistan in the aftermath of 9/11.

Owens said the American Democracy Project was formed in 2009. 

“The idea was to get more students civically engaged and aware of 9/11... teach them how the attack impacted our country. We also hosted a Congress to Campus event one year featuring both a Democrat and Republican representative. We've hosted a Freedom Rider event and had various film screenings over the years.”

Owens, who watched events unfold from her home on TV before teaching a class on campus later that night in 2001, added that a recent student survey indicated that there was a distinct lack of knowledge of the "particulars" from that day.

“Probably because most of our students were either not born or were very young when the attack happened,” she said. “That's why it's important for our campus and community that we remain aware.”

Benjamin Cunningham worked as the editor of the JSU newspaper — The Chanticleer — when the twin towers were attacked on 9/11.

“As best I can remember, I spent most of the day more stunned than anything else,” he said. “I think it wasn't until later, watching overnight news coverage on TV in my apartment, that the horror of the attacks really started to sink in emotionally. The amount of work we had to redo as student journalists may have given us a distraction, something to pour our anxious energy into. 

"What I remember most about re-working that week's edition in a day is the way the whole student staff just got right to work and got it done," Cunningham said. "They were amazing. I think it really helped us bond as a group because we all knew we could count on each other for the rest of the year."

Cunningham said public memorials like the one this Thursday at JSU can be important ways for young people to hear the stories of those who lived through that time. 

"Many students hadn't even been born when the attacks took place, and hearing what it was like — even hundreds of miles away in Jacksonville —  might help them understand more about everything that's happened since, including the current situation in Afghanistan."

State Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said American lives were forever changed since 9/11.

“Both from a travel standpoint and from a security standpoint,” he said. “Much stricter security measures are in place at airports and government buildings, and I don't see that ever changing.”

Much like COVID-19 the last two years, Marsh said that 9/11 left an indelible mark on us. 

"Unfortunately, these are the times we live in now," the senator said.

Owens, who in addition to teaching is a member of the JSU Honors Program and chairs the American Democracy Project, will serve as moderator of a panel organized to discuss 9/11 at the remembrance ceremony. Panel members include: 

  • David A. McPherson (Col. Ret.) —  Manager and Deputy Installation Commander of the Fort McClellan Army National Guard Training Center

  • William A. Meehan. Ed.D. — Jacksonville State University President 1999-2015

  • Miranda Killingsworth Pate — 2001-2002 Jacksonville State University Student Government Association President, currently an educator at Sonoraville Elementary School in Calhoun, Ga.

  • Robert Hayes — 2002-2003 Jacksonville State University Student Government Association President, currently Associate Dean of The University of Alabama's College of Continuing Studies

  • Ben Cunningham — editor of JSU student newspaper The Chanticleer on 9/11; staff writer, metro editor, and managing editor for The Anniston Star; engineering assistant for the U.S. Air Force; currently an instructor of Communication at JSU

  • Travis J. Easterling — Professor of Military Science/Aviation at JSU; deployed once to Iraq; three times to Afghanistan; once to Pakistan; and to Operation Atlantic Resolve 

  • Angie L. McPherson — Principal at Loyd Elementary School (Department of Defense Schools) on Fort Benning, Ga. 

(Mrs. Pearl Williams, a retired police officer and JSU counselor, and Gold Star Mother of Army Major Dwayne Williams, had been scheduled for the panel, but as a previous Anniston Star article noted, illness will prevent her participation.)

The audience is invited to ask questions of the panel. 

For more information, contact the JSU Office of Undergraduate Studies and Special Programs at (256) 782-8335  or email Owens at