Emma Cherry remembers her father tucking her in at night when she was a little girl. She remembers the light blue pants he wore and the rustling sound of the fabric. She remembers feeling safe and loved.
Ten years later, Cherry is a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan University and one of the countless children who lost a parent in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. She was seven when she lost her father, Doug Cherry, a 1985 OWU graduate working on the 105th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower when it was struck and later collapsed.
On September 11, 2011, Emma Cherry joined nearly 200 members of the OWU family for a candlelight vigil commemorating the 10th anniversary of the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people and changed the nation forever. Also lost were OWU alumni Ted Luckett, Class of 1984, at the World Trade Center, and Ann Judge, Class of 1973, at the Pentagon.
During the OWU commemoration, the University planted a cherry tree in remembrance of Doug Cherry and delivered fresh-baked bread to Delaware City firefighters. Emma Cherry, now 17, spoke briefly, remembering her “little lungs” taking big breaths as she grew and tried to process life without her father.
A decade later, “I still take big breaths to remind myself everything is beautiful,” the Chagrin Falls, Ohio, resident told the crowd. Also on hand for the commemoration were her mother, Sarah (Patterson) Cherry, also a 1985 OWU graduate, and her siblings, Isabel, 15, and Jack, 13.
University President Rock Jones and Chaplain Jon Powers also emphasized the positive that people created as a way to honor their lost loved ones and friends.
“We remember how people from all walks of life, all corners of the globe, all paths of religious faith and cultural tradition came together to stand as one,” Jones said. “May we be blessed by this time together, and may each of us strengthen our resolve to become advocates for the things that make for peace, now and always.”
Powers noted that more than one million Americans were expected to serve in their communities in commemoration of 9/11, now a National Day of Service and Remembrance.
“One of the commemorative service projects most enthusiastically endorsed by the White House staff is this very event at Ohio Wesleyan University,” Powers said. “Because of your amazing response to this sharing of memory, baking breads from so many different faith groups and nationalities around the world, and tonight sharing your bread with not only our local first responders, but also local families in need of food, President Obama’s White House staff has requested that any college campus in the nation that has a nearby fire station do what you are doing.
“Your presence here tonight, your planting of this memorial cherry tree, and your sharing of bread from around the OWU world mark what is already a national movement and, I pray, is an act of memory and service that will recur for years to come.”
Following a candlelight walk to the city fire station on South Liberty Street, OWU students Katrina Hansen, Lizzie Rubenstein, Guanyi Yang, and Iftekhar Showpnil, among others, thanked the first responders and encouraged tolerance and understanding among all peoples.
Showpnil, a junior from Bangladesh, said he is inspired by a quotation displayed in the office of Sally Leber, OWU’s interim director of service learning. The quotation reads: “May you be blessed with foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in the world,” he said.
Showpnil, representing OWU’s Islamic student group, Tauheed, encouraged the crowd to take the message to heart.
“Be foolish,” he said. “Think you can make a difference so we can bring back peace in this world.”
(Photos by Mike Serbanoiu ’15 and Taylor Rivkin ’14)
(Video by Mark Schmitter ’12)