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Pepperdine Pays Tribute to Lives Lost on 9/11 with Annual Waves of Flags Display

Waves of Flags

Since 2008, Pepperdine University has commemorated the anniversary of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, by displaying nearly 3,000 flags along the Pacific Coast Highway and Malibu Canyon Road—each flag representing an innocent life lost on that day, including a national flag for each foreign country that lost a citizen in the attack. 

From Saturday, September 2, to Thursday, September 21, 2023, the University invites the Pepperdine community and the public to visit the display and to reflect on the lives lost, the families affected, and the countless sacrifices made by emergency personnel and servicemen and women in the days that followed. This year, visitors to the Waves of Flags display will have an opportunity to honor the victims of 9/11 with a note of reflection or prayer that may be attached to any flagpole with provided ribbon. 

Established by Pepperdine alumni Ryan Sawtelle ('09) and Chris Garcia ('11) who were inspired by a similar display, Waves of Flags has become a Pepperdine tradition that attracts attention and admiration from across the country. For more than a decade, the flags have been a significant project uniting the Pepperdine, Malibu, and Greater Los Angeles communities and have come to transcend the commemoration of a single tragic day. As it continues to educate both students and people from around the world about the unimaginable events that happened on September 11, 2001, the display also serves to keep alive the memory of the thousands who perished and the spirit of unity felt across the nation. 

The Pepperdine community is invited to remember the heroes of 9/11 year-round at the Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. Heroes Garden located at one of the highest points on the Malibu campus. The reflection site honors the heroes of the attacks, including its namesake, Pepperdine alumnus Thomas E. Burnett, Jr. (MBA ‘95), who was a passenger aboard the fourth hijacked jetliner, United Flight 93. Burnett and his fellow passengers attempted to regain control of the aircraft from the hijackers to prevent them from flying it into their intended target of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, which ultimately saved countless lives. 

For more information about Pepperdine’s annual commemoration of the terror attacks on 9/11, visit the Waves of Flags website.