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Then & Now: Campus Reflects on 9/11

Published: Monday, September 12, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 17:01


Kevin Hou / Heights Editor

Then & Now: Campus Reflects on 9/11

Then: Students, Faculty, and Staff Mourn with Nation Post-attacks

Heights Editors in 2001

Published: Monday, September 12, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


Kevin Hou / Heights Editor

This article first ran in the Sept. 17, 2001 special Sept. 11 issue of The Heights.

As the world watched, stunned by the events of Tuesday, Sept. 11 that saw terrorist attacks destroy New York's World Trade Center and damage the Pentagon outside of Washington, D.C., the Boston College community reacted throughout the week by gathering to share thoughts and prayers for the country and for the victims of the violent acts.

Just hours after the attacks, more than 3,000 members of the BC community gathered on O'Neill plaza for a noon prayer service.

"On this difficult day, we gather as a Boston College Community," said Rev. James Erps, director of campus ministry and S.J., to open the service. "We gather for prayer and support, we gather in search of help from the one who gives us hope."

University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., also addressed the gathering, which was announced via e-mail from the Office of the President shortly before 11 a.m., approximately two hours after the attacks.

"We're stunned, we're shocked, we cannot believe what we are seeing on our television screens," said Leahy. "And yet in the midst of all these emotions and confusion, we gather today as the Boston College Community to support each other, to reach out in faith and to be present for each other and every one of us in this community."

Cheryl Presley, vice president of Student Affairs, also addressed the crowd.

"This is an example of our community, how we care for each other and how we bond together," she told the crowd. "This is really a test of our faith.

"I want to encourage all students to stay on the Boston College campus and try not to go home," Presley said.

"We really do have to bond together. We don't have any specific answers, but I will tell you this: By the grace of God, we will move together as a campus community."

With a large segment of BC's student population hailing from the New York City area, the airplane hijackings and subsequent plane-to-building collisions left many members of the community in a panic over the well-being of friends and family members.

"I was sitting in the [O'Neill Library] computer lab," said Nolan Kelly, CSOM '03. "No one went to their computer, everyone just huddled around the TV. A kid just walked into the computer lab, innocently getting his number, looked up at the TV, realized what was going on, dropped his bookbag, mumbled something like, ‘Oh s—, my parents work there.' Then he fell on all fours, just crumbled to pieces.

"Students would just walk in and then, in a rage of tears, go flying out the other door, cell phones in hand."

The University, which had a counseling command center set up in Gasson 100 by noon on Tuesday, also canceled all Tuesday classes after 4 p.m.

On Tuesday night, more than 4,000 community members flooded into Conte Forum for a 7:30 p.m. mass led by Leahy. The set-up made allowances for the unusually large crowd by broadcasting the mass over the two large screens usually used to pump up hockey and basketball crowds and show replays.

While the cameras meant for the big screens were of no concern to students, some were upset by the fact that Channel 5 WHDH Boston also had cameras and a reporter on the scene. A feature on the mass was shown on Channel 5 throughout the night.

Although Leahy was the official celebrant, it was Erps who addressed the crowd with a homily.

"Let not your hearts be troubled," he repeated several times throughout his speech, a quote from the Gospel.

"You have faith in God, have faith in me. We believe that God can bring good out of such a tragedy, but sometimes God needs help from human hands and human hearts."

The mass, which included a number of poignant songs, including "Amazing Grace," and "Eagles' Wings," led by the Liturgy Arts Group, closed with several verses of "America the Beautiful."

Immediately following the mass, president George W. Bush's second address to the nation, which had taken place minutes earlier, was broadcast over the jumbo screens.

The exiting crowd immediately stopped and listened in silence to what the President had to say. At the end of his speech the screens read simply: "God Bless America."

Classes resumed Wednesday, but reflection upon the events, which included news that nearly 5,000 people have been reported missing to New York City authorities, continued via a candlelight vigil at 10:30 p.m. on O'Neill Plaza.

Despite steady rain and lightning, approximately 350 students attended the event, which had been organized by the UGBC earlier in the day. The music of a single flute accompanied the brief remarks of UGBC president and vice president Amanda Jack and Richie Moriarty, both A&S '02.

Jack read the crowd a statement written by Chris Blanchard, A&S '02, that had been sent out to several other Jesuit schools by UGBC.

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Then & Now: Campus Reflects on 9/11

Now: Ten Years Later, Campus Stops to Reflect on Tragedy

Heights Editor

Published: Monday, September 12, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01


Kevin Hou / Heights Editor

Ten years and one day ago, America suffered a terrorist attack of unprecedented horror. The events on Sept. 11 left 3,000 dead, 6,000 injured, and millions more forever affected by the largest act of terrorism in United States history. The nation was left in shock at an attack that was both surprising and confusing. In the years since that fateful day, the world has reflected on the response to the attacks and a world forever changed.

On Sept. 12, 2001, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. sent an e-mail to the Boston College community regarding the events of the previous day.

"What has happened is so unbelievable; and, understandably, it has left us with feelings of sadness and concern for the future," wrote Leahy. "Yet I have no doubt that our nation will work through this situation, and I know that the Boston College community will be sustained by its faith and strong sense of community."

At the time, America was a nation divided by political squabbling and the controversial 2000 presidential election. In a speech made the night of Sept. 11, then President George W. Bush hoped to unite Americans under a single banner, for what he called "everything that is good in our world."

Leahy echoed the same sentiments in his e-mail. "In the days ahead, we need to remind ourselves that we are one community, one world," he wrote. "We cannot allow the hatred and evil that lie at the heart of yesterday's attacks and senseless loss of life to deprive us of our vitality and dreams."

Now, in 2011, the BC community reflects on the experience of Sept. 11 and the intervening years.

While no specific service was held on Sunday, tributes and prayer petitions were made in all masses across campus. Twenty-two BC alumni died on Sept. 11, and their names were read at every mass. The memorial labyrinth outside the Burns Library was one of 18 Sept. 11 monuments from around the country featured by CNBC.

Welles Remy Crowther, BC '99, the lacrosse player who lost his life saving others on Sept. 11, was also the subject of an ESPN Outside the Lines mini-documentary titled, "The Man with the Red Bandana."

Furthermore, the BC Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life sponsored a project collecting reflections from present BC students, faculty, and staff answering the question: "What have you learned since Sept. 11?" The responses were compiled on a webpage, where students and others can access them and reflect on their own experiences in a post-Sept. 11 world.

Alan Wolfe, the director of the Boisi Center, commented on the effect Sept. 11 has had on the U.S. and BC. He said he hopes that students reflect not only on what happened on that fateful day, or where they were when they heard the news, "but also what has happened in the intervening years."

"What have we learned from it?" asked Wolfe. "Ten years ago, no one could have predicted what we'd look like today."

He said that in the years since Sept. 11, BC's "real emphasis on service" has become more important than ever.

Boston College Eagle EMS also attended a tribute on Sunday to those who died on Sept. 11, especially the first responders, firefighters, and paramedics who gave their lives for others. More than 25 Eagle EMS members joined members of the Boston Fire Department and Boston Emergency Medical Services at a 10-year memorial tribute to those first responders who gave their lives on Sept. 11.

"It is our duty as citizens and residents of this country to pay our respects each year to those who have lost their lives or have been affected by the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001," wrote Seth Weil and Gus Godley, both Eagle EMS Member Services Co-Coordinators and A&S '13, in an e-mail to members. "Ten years ago, thousands of civilians perished and hundreds of men and women just like ourselves lost their lives in an attempt to help those in need. Be it certified EMTs, First Responders, or even lay responders, we are a part of a brotherhood in our nation bound by the common goal for preservation of human life."

According to Eagle EMS President Chris Faherty, A&S '13, 343 wreaths were carried in a ceremony outside the State House in downtown Boston, symbolizing the 343 firefighters who gave their lives in New York on Sept. 11.

"No matter how big or small Eagle EMS is, it still affects each of us everyday," Faherty said. "Though we were young at the time, it really could be any of us doing the same thing."

A reading of the play The Guys by Anne Nelson took place at 7 p.m. on Sunday in Gasson 100. The play describes the aftershock of the Sept. 11 attacks on a New York City Fire Department captain as he prepared eulogies for the firemen who died under his command.

In the Sept. 17, 2001, issue of The Heights, Editor-in-Chief Jim O'Sullivan wrote a reflection titled "A palace once more."

"The Roman author Plutarch wrote that ‘The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune,'" O'Sullivan wrote. "The measure of a nation is the same, and America has passed that test with colors flying throughout its history. Our greatness lies not in our brightest days, but in our darkest. Those days are here now; let us hope that we can prove our greatness once again."

Ten years later, the BC community and all of America reflects on whether or not we have. ♦


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