New student group begins semester with 9/11 flag display

Last weekend, people across the nation joined together to commemorate the lives lost on Sept. 11. In New York City, thousands gathered for a recitation of the names of those who were killed; in Washington, D.C., President Barack Obama gave a speech at the Pentagon; in Chicago, a moment of silence was observed and people placed almost 3,000 shoes on the sidewalk outside of the Willis Tower to honor victims.
At Wheaton College, a group known as Young Americans for Freedom placed 2,977 American flags on the quad — one for every American who died — as a part of the “9/11: Never Forget” project through Young America’s Foundation.
YAF was formed in 1960 and quickly grew with President Ronald Reagan sitting as honorary national chairman for the group. It now hosts several nationwide events every year, as well as conferences featuring speeches from well-known public figures including Steve Forbes, Oliver North, Ben Shapiro, Allen West, Newt Gingrich, Dinesh D’Souza, Rick Santorum and Walter Williams.
The organization seeks to promote conservatism — ideals of small government, free enterprise and strong national defense — and freedom on campuses across the nation. Currently, YAF has chapters at over 200 high schools and colleges across the country.
From 2003 through 2016, YAF noticed that students were “beginning to forget about 9/11 … and what happened on that day,” according to junior and chair of YAF Cameron Van Beek. A chapter of YAF once interviewed college students at George Mason University in Virginia and found that many students could not explain the events of that day or answer the question: “What caused 9/11?”
Van Beek hoped that this event would help students visually recognize the magnitude of the events 15 years ago while also providing a space to pray and honor those lost. “The coolest thing to see was the students, staff and community members stopping to pay their respects and even fix the flags if they fell down,” he said.
This event embodied the group’s mission of honoring veterans and celebrating freedom while also raising awareness about government role in tragedy.
Sophomore Justus Hanson, vice-chair of the Wheaton YAF chapter, said the group has “big plans” for this academic year, including a Veterans Day event, debate watch parties, a GPA redistribution project and events with the local American Legions to honor veterans. Hanson also said that ”a big name conservative speaker” could be brought to campus this year.
To learn more about the group and upcoming events, visit the Wheaton College YAF Facebook page.

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