The impact of nearly 3,000 flags of each of the victims' nationality has not gone away for the original team responsible for bringing about the at in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Honestly that each one of those flags represents a victim still brings me to tears to this day," said Chris Garcia, who helped his friend Ryan Sawtelle install the flags during the memorial's first year in 2008.
Both were members of the College Republicans and called on their classmates and friends to help. It was a grueling, months-long process, which now takes a week and draws collaboration from students, faculty, staff and community members.
Sawtelle said he first thought of the idea of the memorial in 2006.
"I always felt like the more removed we came from 9/11 the more people became complacent with the events of the day. I thought they always need to be remembered in the biggest way," Sawtelle said.
He admitted to occasionally missing classes and sleep to get the project done. Now that the flags are installed every year by the university, Sawtelle continues to be amazed by its size.
"The magnitude of it kind of hits you. That’s a lot of people," said Sawtelle, who graduated in 2009. The flags will remain on display until Sept. 19.
The same year he started the Wave of Flags, Sawtelle teamed up with John E. Nanney of the White Heart Foundation to organize the Ride to the Flags. This year's Ride to the Flags is set for Sunday, Sept. 16, with registration beginning at 10 a.m.
More than 1,200 motorcycle riders are expected to caravan from the Naval Base Ventura County in Point Mugu to Pepperdine's campus.
Sawtelle, who continues to organize the event, still lives in the Malibu area.
Garcia, who also still lives in Malibu, remembers the months following the terrorist attacks and how the nation came together.
"We all unified and came together. We were starting to fall away from that unity. The idea is let’s create a display, something that shows the impact and also provide a place to mourn and heal," Garcia said.
Garcia started up Advantage Line Global following his graduation in 2011. He also works as an ambassador on the Gates Millennium Scholars Program.
"This is my home now and I don’t plan on leaving any time soon. I believe in the need to serve others," Garcia said.
The flags also include the life of including Tom Burnett, alumnus of Pepperdine's Graziadio School of Business and Management.
Burnett, who was a passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, is memorialized at Pepperdine's Heroes Garden, which is located at the Drescher Graduate Campus.
A prayer service is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the Heroes Garden.