HAGERSTOWN — Kaplan University in Hagerstown now has something that school President W. Christopher Motz said was conspicuously absent 10 years ago — a flagpole with the Stars and Stripes flying.
The campus Wednesday held a ceremony that acknowledged the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and remembered victims and heroes of that day, including first responders.
The flagpole was dedicated in memory of Lance Cpl. Steven Szwydek of Fulton County, Pa., a U.S. Marine killed while serving in Iraq in 2005.
His mother, Nancy Szwydek, works at Kaplan University’s Hagerstown campus.
Motz said the flag is a reminder of freedom.
“But, I think, also, since 9/11, the flag flying on a pole, wherever we are, stands in quiet defiance of the foes who would seek to take our freedom away from us,” he said.
Two Boy Scouts from the Mason-Dixon Council hung a U.S. flag that Motz said flew over the U.S. Capitol on Sept. 11, 2001, and a Maryland state flag. The boys hoisted both flags up the pole, then lowered them to half-staff.
Earlier in the ceremony, Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said 9/11 has its own vocabulary and unforgettable moments.
He remembers being at work the morning of the attacks. When Flight 93 was still in the air, the theory was that it was headed toward Camp David, the presidential retreat in Frederick County, Md., “10-minute flying time from Washington County,” Mullendore said.
He talked by phone with the U.S. Secret Service until the plane crashed in Shanksville, Pa. Passengers had wrested control from the hijackers and forced the plane down.
Also that morning, two planes crashed into the twin towers in New York City, and a third smashed into the Pentagon in Virginia.
According to the Associated Press, 2,977 people died from the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in the crash in Shanksville. That does not include the 19 hijackers on the four planes.
“If it were not for the brave folks on Flight 93 who gave of their lives to save another crash into infrastructure and save other civilian lives, I think that the outcome would have been much worse than it was,” Mullendore said.
He said a lasting lesson of 9/11 is to be more vigilant. That kind of awareness, by everyday people, has thwarted other attempted attacks, he said.
Mullendore said the effects of 9/11 live on, as U.S. military members die overseas and people who helped at the World Trade Center crash site struggle with respiratory illnesses.
“It’s still affecting us 10 years later and will probably affect us for the rest of our lives,” he said.