Early on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, the campus had barely settled into its daily routine when word quickly spread that America was under attack.
People soon began filing somberly into the Nott Memorial and Reamer Campus Center to monitor television news reports of the collapse of the World Trade Center and the plane crashes in Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon. Others chose to remain in the comfort of their residence halls.
The College stayed open, though afternoon classes were cancelled. Counselors and campus chaplains assisted those struggling with their grief. A number of students from the New York City area wanted to return home. Others encouraged them to stay.
“There was an eerie stillness on campus that day,” recalled Viki Brooks, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and campus Protestant minister. “It was as if people were frozen, attentive to the screens and the looping clips of the destruction of the towers.”
On Sunday, the College will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a day of remembrance, “Building Bridges toward Better Understanding.” The campus community is invited to the Nott Memorial at 3 p.m. to reflect on that horrible day and its aftermath.
A replica of a bridge made of Styrofoam and fabric built over the summer by Elite Williams ’13 and Sulay Lora ’12, along with Angela Tatem, Kenney Center director and her assistant, Marissa Tanner, will be on display.
“People will be encouraged to add ‘bricks’ to the bridge by writing on index cards about how they will build bridges during this academic year,” said Gretchel Hathaway, senior director of Campus Diversity and Affirmative Action and one of the event’s organizers.
There will also be space in Reamer for people to write their recollections about attacks. Volunteers will harvest vegetables from Octopus’s Garden that will go to area flood victims of Hurricane Irene.
The College has paused in the past to reflect on the national tragedy that became known as 9/11. A year after the attacks, 3,000 tiny red, white and blue flags were placed on the lawn near the Nott Memorial to honor the victims, including those who had a connection to Union.
Losses to the Union family included: Thomas Duffy '71; Andrew Fredericks '83; Peter Freund '77; Donald Kauth '74; Alexander Steinman '91; Christopher Quackenbush, husband of Traci S. Quackenbush '80; Timothy Haviland, brother of David Haviland '83; Arlene Fried, mother of Allison Fried '02; and James Patrick, brother of Kevin Patrick, former assistant hockey coach.
Five years ago, members of the campus community gathered around a small oak tree planted at that first anniversary behind the Viniar Athletic Facility. A plaque gently reminds visitors of its significance.
Sunday’s remembrance will be particularly poignant for people like Brooks and Hathaway. Both played key roles in helping the campus deal with the attacks a decade ago. They, along with people like Matt Milless, director of Student Activities, consoled students, faculty and staff. They helped coordinate services and programs. They also made sure to protect and reassure students from the Middle East, particularly Muslims, who felt uneasy after the attacks.
“The shock was felt by many,” said Hathaway. “We were determined to keep calm on campus and at the same time allow students to express their feelings.”
When the magnitude of the day’s events became clear, students assembled outside Reamer to publicly share their profound sadness. One message heard that day will resonate during Sunday’s remembrance and call for global understanding.
“I was deeply moved by a first-year student who spoke early on,” Brooks said. “Wearing the modesty hair covering of her Muslim religion, she pleaded with all who were gathered that they remember she, too, was born in America, and that she, too, said the Pledge of Allegiance every day of school, and she, too, was attacked that day.”