Even as an 11-year-old, I could tell that something was wrong on September 11, 2001. The police officer who helped us cross the street to get to school in the morning was absent and without a replacement. It was the first time I ever had to cross the street alone to get to my elementary school in suburban New York. When we shuffled into class, my classmates and I waited for our usually upbeat fifth grade teacher to jump into her lesson with a warm "good morning everyone!" Instead, we were allowed to talk among ourselves for several minutes while she spoke in a hushed voice to a school staffer who clasped my teacher's arm comfortingly.

The following weeks were full of stories of near misses as people recounted their experience from being in the city that day. A man who lived on my block was scheduled to have a business meeting on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers, but he missed his train into the city when his daughter overslept and had to be driven to school. A friend's father was trapped in the city without a car when they shut down the trains and, like many thousand others, was forced to walk across the Tri-Borough Bridge to escape Manhattan.

While all Americans were deeply affected by the events of September 11, there was no group that took it more personally than New Yorkers did. While I don't know many New Yorkers who haven't visited Ground Zero to pay their respects at some point since that day, New Yorkers have generally been against any excessive displays of patriotism and remorse on the anniversary. We know that politics doesn't mix with something like 9/11. That's why there has been an unwritten rule in New York politics since 2001 forbidding the use of 9/11 imagery in political campaigns. Rudy Giuliani might have gotten away with campaigning on "a noun, and a verb and 9/11" in Iowa and Florida—as Joe Biden famously accused him of doing during the 2008 presidential primary season—but he wouldn't have made it very far with that kind of rhetoric had he stayed in the race long enough to participate in New York's primary.

Perhaps my appreciation for the way New Yorkers treat 9/11 is why I felt a little sick to my stomach every time I saw posters advertising the College Republicans' 9/11 memorial. The posters, with their flapping American flag looming large in the background and the words "Never Forget" superimposed front and center, were too gaudy for me. But it was the line, "Brought to you by the Bowdoin College Republicans" that put me over the edge.

September 11 was a vast human tragedy. Ostensibly, of course, it was an attack on the nation, but that is not why we memorialize it. We memorialize the people who lost their lives. After nine years, to still push a brand of high-strung nationalism with a partisan association in the faces of all those who simply wish to quietly reflect and mourn on the anniversary is offensive.

I would still have been offended if the Republicans and Democrats had put the event on together. Politics and 9/11 should not be two things that go together. The fact that this memorial was organized by a political group, and was not even bipartisan, is truly unsettling. It's impossible to shake the feeling of an implicit message that says, "We, the College Republicans, are patriotic and, as you can clearly see, mourn the loss of the human life. The College Democrats? Not so much."

Is that the subtext that this anniversary should have? Should there even be a subtext? When will we learn that when we handle something sacred, even if only to raise it up, we tarnish it? I hope soon.

Sam Vitello is a member of the Class of 2013.