United by a desire to address tragedy with positive action, Occidental College students and staff gathered on the eve of the tenth anniversary of 9/11 to lend a hand to campus beautification projects at nearby Franklin and Eagle Rock high schools.
"I feel like doing something proactive is the best way to remember the day. You know what they say: think globally, act locally," first-year Nathan Landay of Chicago said of his participation in the event, part of a citywide effort coordinated by L.A. Remembers.
"It's a positive release for that tension and sadness and fear," agreed senior Asha Canady, an American Studies major from Sacramento. Even Stevie Watson, a junior exchange student from the University of East Anglia in England, felt moved to sign up. "It's important to get involved and show support," she said.
Before heading out for the day's work, students tied multicolored "ribbons of hope" to a fence in the College Quad on which they had written personal messages and observed a moment of silence to remember the almost 3,000 victims of the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Split into two teams, the more than 50 Occidental volunteers spent much of the day working with Franklin and Eagle Rock students painting, cleaning, weeding, and planting on the campuses of its two long-time community partners.
Occidental's Office of Community Engagement and the Office for Religious and Spiritual Life combined to purchase $500 worth of roses to plant on the two campuses; another portion was donated by Trader Joes.
Students had vivid memories of the attacks that came when they were in elementary school. Canady remembers watching events unfold from the safety of her mother's bed while her parents debated whether or not to send her and her twin sister to school. "It was surreal," she said. "I was terrified."
At the tender age of 11, Canady said she suddenly had a vivid awareness of the wider world. "I think in some ways that defined our early years, that we were thrust into the world at such an early age."
Occidental's relationship with Eagle Rock and Franklin high schools is an old one. Eagle Rock's graduation ceremony has been held in Occidental's Hillside Theater for 85 years, and Franklin students have participated in Occidental's Upward Bound program since 1966.