On Sept. 12, 2001, The Cornell Daily Sun featured a jarring image on its front page showing the World Trade Center collapsing beneath the headline, “Airplanes Hit New York, D.C.” By then, news of the atrocities on Sept. 11 had thoroughly shocked the nation and struck the entire University with overwhelming grief and confusion.
The initial reaction by thousands of Cornell students and faculty was to gather that Tuesday evening on the Arts Quad “to mourn the loss of life and injuries that have occurred … and to provide each other with mutual support,” according to a University e-mail sent out that day.
The first of many Sun articles in response to the attacks described the melancholy scene as President Hunter R. Rawlings III led the crowd in a candlelight vigil from the Olin Library terrace.
That night, he made the announcement that the administration would “keep Cornell University open and pursue work as an academic community.” However, as The Sun reported, many professors gave students the option of not attending class the next day, and nearly a hundred students gathered at Ho Plaza in a prayer service for all those affected by the tragedy.
Once again on Friday, over 12,000 Cornellians congregated on the Arts Quad at noon to honor a national day of prayer and remembrance that President Bush asked of the country.
Sun writer Liz Novak ’04 described the solemn occasion: “The McGraw Tower bells chimed the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ and the sun broke through the clouds. Many people huddled together, shivering from the chilly breeze, others stood apart. The mood among the students was somber, some were wiping away tears, others weeping unabashedly.”
Amid the disorienting days following Sept. 11, The Sun served as a source for updates from the Associated Press and campus-related articles from Sun reporters.
“[It] is critical that we work and inform our readers; these are the moments when journalism faces its test, but more importantly, it is critical that we are here putting out a paper because, in spite of everything, we still can,” Sun associate editor Christen Aragoni ‘02 wrote.