Three political clubs came together on Sept. 11, 2016—in the midst of one of the most controversial elections this country has seen—to place 2,996 American flags on the Free Speech lawn on campus, each flag representing a life that was lost 15 years ago.
College Democrats president Michael Hodapp, College Republicans president Karis Lockhart and Young Americans for Freedom chairman Carter Lankes brought their respective organizations to make sure that UCF students would be able to remember those lost in this tragic event by constructing a memorial at one of the most walked-by places on campus.
Lankes, a junior electrical engineering major, first got involved with YAF because he felt that conservative ideas were not equally represented at UCF. This is the first year that YAF has been involved in putting together the 9/11 memorial. Lankes, along with other club members, helped prepare for the event by handing out materials to students before Sept. 11, in order to remind everyone to pay their respects on the anniversary of this tragedy.
“It is very important to have this memorial because I for one vaguely remember the actual day and incoming freshman probably don't even remember it at all,” Lankes said. “Also, September 11 had such an impact on our country—we as Americans can't afford to forget it.”
The thousands of miniature American flags, arranged by members of all three clubs, were placed to form the numbers nine and 11 in the grass.
Lockhart, a 19-year-old public administration major, brought family with her to commemorate this event side by side with dozens of people, who all harbor varying political beliefs.
“Personally, I brought my brother, who’s in high school, here. I don’t think they do 9/11 memorials because it fell on a Sunday so it’s hard to do it with school,” Lockhart said. “Knowing that I have to lead these members, and we have about a hundred active members in our organization, and a good 50 of them came out means I’m doing my job. I feel like it’s really good to show others that we can work together. We can play nice and let the entire school know we can do that.”
Hodapp, a finance major, said it’s imperative for college students to be informed of the terrorist attacks that happened on Sept. 11, 2001, because they affected all Americans no matter what their political beliefs were. Hodapp, along with Lankes and Lockhart, expressed the importance of Americans coming together on this day.
“I think we…get into the point of looking at it where we’re just too different to get along, but that’s not the case,” Hodapp said. “There’s a lot of issues where we very well could see eye-to-eye and even on the ones we don’t, we’re still people and everyone deserves respect. We have to come together and we have to show the campus we’re together.”