On September 11, 2001, America suffered the most devastating terrorist attack on its soil in history. Memories of that fateful day live on and this year emerged with particular poignancy in commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
More than 2,000 visitors came to the Pepperdine campus in Malibu on September 11, 2011, to pay tribute to those who sacrificed their lives one decade ago. “We came together as a community of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to honor the heroes of 9/11 and offer encouragement to the families who lost loved ones in the tragedy,” says President Benton.
Among those heroes was Thomas E. Burnett (MBA ’95), a Graziadio School alumnus who perished on Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. In what has become an annual event, Pepperdine honored Burnett and all his fellow victims at Heroes Garden, an outdoor sanctuary on the Malibu campus dedicated in 2003 to serve as a place of private reflection and everlasting remembrance of 9/11. This year, the site was rededicated as Thomas E. Burnett, Jr., Heroes Garden.
“Every yearly anniversary, I’m asked, ‘Do you think they still remember? Do you think they still honor?’” expressed Burnett’s widow Deena Bailey during her memorial address. “Ten years later I can say yes, they do.”
In remembrance of Burnett’s heroic acts on the ill-fated flight, Pepperdine screened United 93, after which actor Christian Clemenson, who portrayed Burnett in the film, discussed the impact the film had on the actors while it was being made and the lasting impact on them years afterward.
Throughout the day, visitors snapped photos, shed tears, and prayed silently as they took in the overwhelming beauty of the University’s Waves of Flags display at Alumni Park, where each of the 2,977 flags honored the victims and emergency responders who lost their lives on 9/11. Amid the flag display, Pepperdine presented a reading of the victims’ names, after which L.A. County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and former California governor Gray Davis delivered their remarks.
In his closing address, President Benton offered the words that he first delivered to Pepperdine students 10 years earlier in Firestone Fieldhouse on the late afternoon of the attacks. “September 11, 2001, will be in our memories forever. Where you were, when you heard, what you felt, and what you did. Times like these prove that the heart is more than just an organ; it is part of what makes us human.”