For a group of Kansas University students, the Sept. 11 anniversary could not pass without a memorial to those who died then, as well as in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that followed.
About 50 Kansas University students early this morning turned out for a vigil on Wescoe Beach on the KU campus, bringing just a candle and themselves to reflect on where the world has been in the six years since the attack.
State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, addressed the students and said the anniversary is not a time for partisanship, but for recalling those who died on Sept. 11 - and those whose heroism saved others.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Boyda, D-Kan., also spoke to the crowd before leading participants in "God Bless America."
Boyda said she was not ready to respond to the specifics of Monday's testimony of Gen. David Petraeus, the senior American military commander in Iraq, before lawmakers.
"I don't understand the specifics of what he's recommending," she said. "I want to take a look at it. What I was pleased to hear him say is he understands that our troops are stressed and strained."
Students held candles and bowed their heads as names of U.S. soldiers killed since the 9/11 attacks were read aloud.
"I don't think that anyone has tried to do an honest vigil for those who died on Sept. 11 in a long time," event organizer Felix Zacharias said. "Especially since 2003, it's been hard to have a true vigil without politics getting in the way."
Zacharias, a veteran of the war in Iraq, said that while the focus of the vigil is on Sept. 11 and those victims, the vigil will also memorialize those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Zacharias wears a blue metal bracelet with the name of a friend who was killed in Iraq.
Originally, the vigil was supposed to be a way for Zacharias and other veterans like him to come together, remember the fallen and share their common bond. Though it eventually grew to be much larger than just veterans, Zacharias said he hoped veterans would still feel a sense of community at the gathering.
"Lawrence doesn't even celebrate Veterans Day, at least not in any big, visible way I've ever seen," Zacharias said. It's not that Lawrence dishonors veterans, he said; it's just that it doesn't really honor them either. It winds up somewhere in the middle.
"I hope that everyone gets a sense of community," he said. "When things like Sept. 11 happen, it doesn't affect a party or a state; it affects a nation."