Commemorative cannon fire disrupted class

By By By Brandon Beifuss

By By Brandon Beifuss

Last Wednesday, I almost ran out of my class. Numerous deafening explosions caused the building and windows in Orson Spencer Hall to shake while dramatically silencing the class discussion at hand. My first thought was that a soon-to-be unemployed construction worker had gone rampant and was removing the floor beneath me, tactfully forgetting I was on it. That didn’t seem very likely, but my experience in demolition is limited. I was halfway out of my seat, backpack in hand looking longingly toward the door, when my professor told me, in between detonations, that the army was having an honorary 21-gun salute for Veteran’s Day.

Oh, of course it was Veteran’s Day. Why wouldn’t the army fire cannons in the heart of a university?

On second glance, the U has been holding Veteran’s Day ceremonies since 1998 and just like previous ceremonies, this year’s was a blast. This year’s commemoration went all day, with a morning ceremony honoring 11 individuals who represent Utah’s many veterans and it was during their ceremony that the honorary cannon salute took place in the free speech plaza outside the Union.

Firing cannons in close proximity to classrooms has the effect of creating a deafened moment of silence, as regular speech cannot be heard. Typically, in sporting events or other proceedings, an announcement is made that a moment of silence will occur. No such warning was given in the barrage that took place on the eleventh.

Beyond the silencing effect, the cannons also convey the real presence of a local bombing. It could be said that this is mitigated by the ordered timing of the explosions, but how does an ordered firing make you feel better if you have already presumed the worst?

“While it might have caused pause, I think it’s important that students understand what their fellow students are going through,” said Remi Barron, public relations specialist for the U. Pause is an underestimation as the floor, walls and windows shuddered with the concussive force of a M1A1 75mm Pack Howitzer.

That said, veterans deserve more than one day commemorating a sacrifice the majority of us will never have to consider because of their effort. The 21-gun, or in this case cannon, salute is but another gesture honoring them. This is not problematic in and of itself, but having it occur in the middle of the day, during classes and without warning is cause for question.

A notice given to the faculty was embedded in an FYI newsletter. The reference was, “a full dress military ceremony and 21-gun salute (11:00 a.m.)” There is no reference to cannons or a warning about the possible disruption. In discussing the event, the students I spoke with did not know what caused the sound, but made after-the-fact guesses as to its cause.

“We hope word gets out,” Barron said. Students were, according to Barron and Rachael Kaneko, informed as part of an outsourced effort by the U Marketing and Communications department to Absolute Communication, a high level mass communication class that awards credit based on participation in the public relations firm of the same name. Word was passed out to history and political science clubs, but the remaining study body was left out of the information.

“We didn’t know if we could send a mass email,” Kaneko said. Absolute Communication ended up informing the students who might be interested instead of the whole student body.

Honoring veterans by firing cannons very near to the center of a research institution, with minimal warning, seems akin to shooting a hornet’s nest to see if they will buzz. Letting faculty and staff know through the Campus Alert System would have made those at the U aware that the ceremonies were taking place in lieu of worrisome inference.

Veterans deserve to be honored every day of the week, especially on a day devoted to their commemoration, however the U should have made the public fully aware before it tested the earthquake integrity of its buildings with the concussive air blasts from Howitzers.

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