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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Southern California

In Malibu, Thousands of Flags Wave over PCH

At a memorial service held at Pepperdine University, locals walk through rows of flags representing every 9/11 victim while victims' names are read.

The thirty acre park is quiet except for the thousands of flags flapping in the wind and a single voice reading name after name. Families walk through rows of red, white and blue and couples sit silently on the hill looking over the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.   

This solemn scene can be found at Pepperdine University's Alumni Park each year when the university transforms the park into a 9/11 memorial by flying a flag for each person killed in the 2001 attacks. The tradition began in 2008, led by Pepperdine's College Republicans. 

However, many found that the event took on a new significance this year as Americans mark the tenth anniversary of 9/11. "I don't think in previous years I've felt quite the way I'm feeling today," said Barbara Winkleblack, a Grenada Hills resident visiting the memorial for the first time with her husband, Farrell. "It seems like a very important day in our history."

To mark the special occasion, Pepperdine organized a reading of every victim's name by 20 community leaders and 15 members of Pepperdine's student body and staff. "To sit and listen to that is a verbal reminder in addition to the visual reminder of all the flags," said James Hickey, a returning visitor to the memorial. "It really personalizes each flag for each victim."

Many visitors said the landmark anniversary has caused them to reflect on the way their lives have changed since the attack in 2001. "From now on I turn the TV on every morning and turn (to) the news, just to make sure I'm not missing something," Winkleblack said.

Visiting parents spoke about the need to educate their young children about the events of September 11th.  "It's sad but we can't forget," said Robert Medina, a father of two from Downey.  "My son, he wasn't even born when this happened.  That's another reason why we came by here, so he can see and hear the names being mentioned." 

Others said they have continued to observe the anniversary of September 11th, regardless of the number of years since the event. "Numbers don't mean that much to me," said Farrell Winkleblack. "The eleventh (anniversary) will be just as important." 

Other events at Pepperdine on Sunday included a screening of United 93, a film profiling the heroism of the passengers and crew of the United flight that crashed into a field in Pennsylvania.  Visitors were also invited to attend memorial and prayer ceremonies throughout the day, featuring Pepperdine President Andrew K. Benton, former California Governor Gray Davis and Deena Burnett Bailey, the widow of one of the passengers of United flight 93, as speakers.

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