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9/11 holds special meaning for veteran-turned-student

George Washington University marks 12th anniversary of attack

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Putting the needs of others first is the message that Dominic Amaral, an Army veteran and student at George Washington University, takes away from the events of 9/11.

"It's a very solemn day. People should [remember] those firefighters who ran into those buildings. [The firefighters] didn't know what was going to happen, but they had a remarkable sense of duty and bravery," said Mr. Amaral, who joined other students of the D.C. school in a campuswide moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. — the exact time that American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center to begin the terrorist attack 12 years ago Wednesday.

Mr. Amaral had enlisted in the U.S. Army only two months before the attack.

"I had people walking up to me, shaking my hand and saying, 'Thank you,' for something I couldn't even comprehend yet," he said.

The university marked the 12th anniversary of the attack by placing 2,977 small flags, one for each victim, in a grassy area outside Lisner Auditorium.

"I think it's great. It's a day that changed everything, and it's important to memorialize it. The face of the country changed [that day]," Mr. Amaral said. "It's a tragedy, but I think that we can learn from the men and women who ran to the needs of others. They went in because people needed their help."

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mr. Amaral remembers, his drill sergeant told the new recruits to stop what they were doing immediately. He then proceeded to inform them of the attack.

"Everything changed because we were Army recruits," he said. "When I left for basic training, [family and friends] could see you to the airplane. And when I went home from basic training, [they] couldn't do that anymore."

After basic training, he was sent to Fort Hood, Texas, in January 2002. He said that the recruits sensed that they had a "new purpose."

"I'm very proud, and to this day I remain proud to have served my country. There's no greater privilege on this planet," he said.

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