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Students, some too young to remember, gather at Whitworth University to honor victims of 9/11

Jake Liening, right, and Mikayla Davis, both students at Whitworth University, gather up some of the hundreds of tiny flags place on the lawn at Whitworth University after a short remembrance program for the 9-11 terrorist attacks on the college campus, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Approximately 3000 tiny flags are placed on the lawn at Whitworth University for a remembrance program, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Whitworth University students Annika Bjornson, Kjersten Langager, Maya Moggia talk about what it 9-11 means to the generation that didn’t watch the actual terrorist attacks live on television after a short program to remember the attacks, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
ABOVE: Jake Liening, right, and Mikayla Davis, both students at Whitworth University, gather up some of the hundreds of flags placed on the campus lawn Tuesday at Whitworth University after a short remembrance program for the 9/11 terrorist attacks. AT LEFT: Madison Habersetzer holds her hand over her heart during the national anthem before a program to remember 9/11 at Whitworth University on Tuesday. Senator Mike Baumgartner, to Habersetzer’s right, was the keynote speaker. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Looking down on rush hour traffic, Spokane Firefighter Alex Mickschl waves a flag from a rocky outcropping at Liberty Park in Spokane, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, something he has done every 9-11 since the 2001 terrorist attacks. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Firefighter Alex Mickschl waves a flag from a rocky outcropping at Liberty Park in Spokane, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018, something he has done every 9-11 since the 2001 terrorist attacks. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Maya Moggia can’t remember Sept. 11, 2001, because she was about a year and a half old.

“It’s still a part of my life,” she said. “I remember growing up with it always being told to us.”

Moggia was one of the college students in a group of about 35 at Whitworth University on Tuesday who gathered in honor of 9/11 victims. The event was hosted by the student-run Young Americans for Freedom.

Madison Habersetzer, a senior, said it was the first year they’ve held a 9/11 memorial event in her time at the school. The keynote speaker was Washington state Sen. Michael Baumgartner, who spoke near a display of more than 2,000 small American flags planted in a lawn, one for every victim.

“Even though we don’t remember the event, remembering the effects of it is what’s important,” Habersetzer said.

Another student in the crowd, Kjersten Langager, was less than 2 years old when terrorists flew commercial jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Another plane struck the Pentagon and a fourth crashed into a Pennsylvania field after passengers retook control of the cockpit.

Langager’s parents were resistant to tell her the whole story when she was a kid, she said.

“They wouldn’t let me see the images,” she said.

Eventually Langager taught herself more about it and she would write hypothetical fiction stories about people there.

“I dove in,” she said.

Every year around 9/11, Langager’s mom tells her about where she was when the event happened, she said.

“She was in the kitchen,” she said. “Her reaction was, ‘We’re about to go to war.’ ”

Langager and other students at the gathering said they’ve adopted their parents stories as their own, and she was drawn to the event to honor the people who died.

In Baumgartner’s speech, he told his own story of where he was on Sept. 11, 2001: He was about to teach a class at Harvard University. It was a week before classes started, and his first reaction was thinking, “Wow, that pilot really made a mistake,” he said. Then, after realizing the extent of the tragedy, he thought, “No one in that attack could have spent any time in America,” because they must have seen the pluralism and the tolerance to other cultures, he said.

“How could anyone want to fight that?” he said.

Baumgartner later worked for the State Department in Iraq in 2007, and then worked in anti-drug enforcement in Afghanistan. He met his wife there, who was working as a journalist.

As a father of four, Baumgartner wants to teach his children the sense of patriotism and sacrifice that America experienced after the attack on 9/11, even though they weren’t yet born when it occurred.