9/11 anniversary

20 Years Later: SMU Grads Reflect on ‘Hope' Carrying Students Through 9/11 Aftermath

Couple spirits the idea of manifesting hope to help people recover from tragic situations

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As the anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, many people are reflecting on a day that shaped a nation and its people.

Among them are Michael Waters and his wife Yulise Reaves Waters, who like many, remember the morning clearly.

"We were dating and felt as though we had the world before us. And on Sept. 11, the world before us changed drastically,” said Michael Waters.

With classes canceled for the day the couple, who on Sept. 11, 2001, were seniors at Southern Methodist University and not yet married, wasted no time finding their role in the crisis and organized a candlelight vigil to provide comfort.

"In those kinds of tragic moments, you just need a place to process and to feel like you're not alone and to feel like there's a community,” said Yulise Waters.

To help, they asked the campus bookstore for blank journals for students to share their thoughts. They had no idea, they’d continue to do so for days to come, sharing messages of prayer, unity, and hope.

It’s a message that echoed from young people around the nation on the brink of starting their adult lives in a world that looked different from the one they’d prepared to enter.

That’s the sentiment Michael shared with Tom Brokaw when he, along with several other college students, was interviewed on NBC Nightly News.

"Although this is indeed a horrific event, I believe that our generation can provide hope,” he said at the time.

Twenty years later, little has changed as Michael serves as the lead pastor at Abundant Life AME Church and Yulise as deputy director for Lone Star Justice Alliance.

"The idea of manifesting hope in seemingly hopeless times has been sort of the driving force or sort of our North Star,” said Yulise.

In yet another challenging time, the couple can’t help but reflect on the days following the attack in 2001 and on the lessons learned then they always carry with them.  

"Even if you can't quite see it clearly, you believe that the sun is still shining beyond the clouds and that provides the strength and motivation that people need,” said Michael.

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