REMEMBERING ALICIA TITUS… 15 YEARS AFTER 9/11

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Every part of New York’s 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero is somber, sensitive, and heart-breaking. One room stands out for its intensely private – yet so public – remembrances.  It is the room where you can find a photo and read a life tribute of every 9/11 victim, including a beautiful young flight attendant from Urbana named Alicia Titus.

Alicia perished on Sept. 11, 2001 when her hijacked United Airlines flight was flown into a World Trade Center tower.  She is remembered at Urbana University by the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Program, founded by her parents John and Beverly Titus.

In 2011, the Community Blood Center Alicia Titus Memorial Blood Drive was held on campus in conjunction with other special remembrances. It was part of the five-day Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Program, commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and culminated with the dedication of the Freedom Grove WTC Memorial on Sunday, Sept. 11, 2011.

This year in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of 9/11 the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Run 5K and 1 Mile Walk will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10, at the Student Center at Urbana University. On Sunday, Sept. 11, there will be a “Community Day of Remembrance” at 3 p.m. at Urbana University’s Student Center. John and Bev Titus will share brief comments.

The following is from CBC publications about the blood drive in Alicia’s honor on the 10th anniversary of 9/11:

In the 10 years since Sept. 11, 2001 Alicia Titus might have married the man she loved and had children.  She might have seen the world as a flight attendant and wrote about the world as a journalist.  Her hometown would have continued to be Urbana, where her visits would bring joy to her parents, John and Beverly Titus, and all the lives she touched.

Instead, memories of Alicia are frozen in time.  She remains the 28 year old Graham High and Miami University graduate who quit her job in finance with a plan to travel and study.   She became a United Airlines flight attendant about eight months before 9/11, the day her hijacked plane struck one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Over the years her memory might have grown as cold as the 12-foot steel support beam from Ground Zero that is now in place at Urbana’s Freedom Grove Memorial Park.  Instead, on this 10th anniversary of 9/11, her memory is warm and vibrant in the life-affirming peace program at Urbana University and the life-giving blood drive that both bear her name.

On 9/11 thousands flocked to blood banks, including the regional Community Blood Center branches, to donate far more blood than could be readily put to use.  It was out of a need to act, respond in some way, to a national tragedy.  “I do think it’s symbolic,” reflected Alicia’s mother Beverly Titus as the 9/11 anniversary approaches.  “People wanting to do something, donate blood to help other persons, and possibly save their lives.  To me it’s a symbol of everything we’ve gone through since 9/11, all of us as human beings.”

At times, what the Titus family has gone through in the past 10 years has seemed more than they could bear.  Alicia’s father John Titus talks vividly about the struggle between strides and set-backs. “People need to realize, grief is a journey that takes you to places you don’t want to go,” he said.  “Places difficult and painful.”

Not only was Alicia’s death a staggering personal loss for the family, her mourning was part of the 9/11 story, and thus a very public grief.  “That’s all part of the journey,” said John Titus.  “You have to deal with it.  Our lives, our grief were exposed to the public. If it is exposed, let people see what we’re going through.  It also has been a faith journey.  You question everything when something like this happens to you.”

In the first year after 9/11 John tried to keep a journal, and supporters suggested he should publish it.  But the process was too painful and emotionally draining.  He had to put it aside.

Then in 2002, with the encouragement of family and church friends, the family launched the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Program at Urbana University.  Both John and Beverly are Urbana graduates, John was dean of the university for 11 years, and Alicia was enrolled for a semester while earning money to finish at Miami.

It grew into the Alicia Titus Memorial Peace Fund, which supports the Memorial Peace Program.  The dream is to one day endow a chair in a peace studies program at Urbana.

John and Beverly Titus also became active in “Peaceful Tomorrows,” the anti-war organization founded by families of 9/11 victims, whose mission is described as turning grief into action for peace.

“It seems to be the right thing to do.  The way to honor Alicia and her memory,” said Beverly Titus.  “The way she chose to live her life, to do something different in the world.  To counter all that violence, bloodshed, the way they were killed.  A way unlike her and the way she lived her life.”

Along the way, John Titus returned to his journal writings and was able to transform them into a book, “Losing Alicia – A Father’s Journey After 9/11.”  It will be published by Friesen Press in September.  He says writing it helped him rediscover “a wonderful gift:  The feeling of joy without pain on the other side of it.”  He says losing Alicia shook his faith, but made him stronger and dedicated to the Peace Program goal of “creating a culture of peace.”

“I still feel sadness and I am OK with that,” he said.  “I welcome it when it comes.  It’s real and part of me.  I accept that.  It comes with having the love I had for my daughter, a love that never ceases.”

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