Recalling the Past, Reaffirming Community
UConn Remembers September 11
By Sherry Fisher & Pat Keefe
They held hands, hugged, and huddled in small groups. Some wiped away tears.
Strong winds didn't stop students, faculty and staff in Storrs, Farmington and at other University locations from coming together Wednesday to remember the tragic events that shook the world a year earlier.
A candlelight vigil on the plaza in front of the Homer Babbidge Library was one of a number of activities held at the Storrs campus that gave the University community an opportunity to reflect on the lasting impact of the events of September 11, 2001; to honor the men and women who lost their lives; and to renew a spirit of community.
The day began at 8:46 a.m. with a bell-ringing and campus-wide moment of silence. At noon, ROTC cadets raised the flag outside Hall Dorm and the national anthem was sung.
Students attending the vigil, which drew some 2,000 people, said they were grateful that the University organized the event.
"I'm here as a small token to give tribute to the victims and heroes," said freshman Lauren Burdick. "I'm glad the University is doing something so students can come together."
Susan Lund of Mansfield Center, who graduated in May with an MBA, came with her husband and three children. "This is a chance for the family to remember together," she said.
Voices of Freedom, the University's gospel choir, opened the ceremony, which included remarks by students, faculty and administrators.
"We have come together again to show that we care about each other and our community," said Vicky Triponey, vice chancellor of student affairs.
Triponey said she was "very proud" of the way in which the campus community responded to the challenges of the past year. "Our collective light will make the world a brighter and better place," she said.
Mitch Reisman, a senior from Teaneck, N.J., wiped away tears as he talked about coming to terms with losing six friends - including his four-year-old godson - in the World Trade Center attacks. Reisman said he was compelled to tell his story. "As raw as my emotions are, I must do this," he said, "if not for myself, for everyone else." Eleven people from his town perished in the attacks.
"Only through getting to know one another can we build bridges of tolerance," said Reda Ammar, professor and department head of computer science and engineering and president of the Islamic Center.
Doaa Ammar, president of the Muslim Student Association, said that September 11, 2001 "was not only an American tragedy, it was a world tragedy. We pray for wisdom, tolerance and understanding," she said.
Michael Nichols, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, asked people to look around at the many faces in the crowd. "We need to be a welcoming, open and respectful society," he said.
During the vigil, 3,244 votive candles were given out to commemorate each life lost during the events of September 11. They were placed around the plaza to burn until the following evening.
At the Health Center earlier in the day, some 300 people attended a service at 12:15 p.m. in the courtyard. It was a brilliant day with strong winds mussing hair and ruffling lab coats.
Dr. Julian Ford, Psychiatry, a specialist in post-traumatic stress disorder, put the aftermath of September 11, 2001 in perspective for the crowd attending the Health Center commemorative service.
"I hope that as you think about these events, you'll take a moment to reflect on what's important and precious in your life," he said. "I have thoughts of my daughters, my wife, my parents and my friends. I'm looking forward to going home to them tonight."
Dr. Ford was one of three speakers during the Health Center event.
Dr. Peter Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs and Daniel Petronella, Pastoral Services, also spoke during the 23-minute service.
"I was very glad to see the place come together in prayer and remembrance," said Robert "Bob" Dickson, Building Services. "It was well done."
"I went because I felt a sense of community," said Dr. Robert Cone, Pathology. "I thought it was something that ought to be done. This is my community," he said. "I wanted to be with people and as a faculty member, I thought it was important for the students to see us there. We're all in this together."
Dr. Deckers began the service and related how, during frequent drives to Washington, D.C., or Baltimore to visit family, he always admired the New York City skyline and the twin towers of the World Trade Center as he passed by. On the first trip home after the collapse, passing the city and noticing the altered skyline, he said he found himself "praying for the people who had sacrificed, for their families, for our country, for our military personnel and for our leaders so that they might make the right judgment," he said.
"It's important that we remember in our prayers all the victims, but also those who make the difficult decisions to keep us safe. Nothing will destroy our nation, our will, or our greatness," he said.
Sue Eselby, Development, said she was compelled by the anniversary to join with others. "It's 'The Day'," she said, "and everyone is feeling the same. I wanted to share with others and join them in unity to express my feelings of loss, pride in America, and hope for the future."
Chaplain Petronella offered a remembrance, a moment of silence, and the ritual kiss of peace, turning to a neighbor and offering a handshake or an embrace together with words of peace and reconciliati on. The ritual was a key component of the Health Center's memorial service last year, two days after September 11.