Thousands of members of the Cornell community gathered in solidarity on the Arts Quad yesterday evening in response to a series of terrorist attacks that horrified the nation and left New York City and Washington, D.C. in chaos.
Yesterday afternoon, the administration announced in an e-mail to the Cornell community that it would hold a gathering on the Arts Quad “to mourn the loss of life and injuries that have occurred in [yesterday’s] tragedies and to provide each other with mutual support.”
At the candlelight vigil, President Hunter R. Rawlings III addressed students, faculty and Ithaca residents from atop Olin Library, with the Cornell Chorus and Glee Club seated behind him.
“We join here on the Arts Quad to express not only our sorrow this evening, but also our conviction that our community, and other communities throughout the world, will withstand these assaults on humanity and decency,” Rawlings said.
Rawlings implored those individuals who were deeply affected by the attacks to seek help.
“Let me offer you an admonition,” he said. “Many people after such a series of tragedies have a delayed response. They believe they are coping with the situation well, but are, in fact, traumatized by the sheer magnitude of the event. No matter how you think you are doing, be sure to talk to others about your feelings.”
Rawlings commended members of the Cornell community for the aid they have already extended to the victims of the attacks. Physicians at Cornell’s Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College in New York City have been helping injured individuals since yesterday morning, while medical students donated blood. He added that many students in Ithaca have expressed a desire to donate blood to help victims as well.
“We are working now with our local Red Cross chapter to assist them with their effort [to obtain blood]. We will provide everyone with further information as soon as it is available,” he said.
Rawlings advised the gatherers to continue to make themselves available to those affected by the attacks.
“In the next few days, we hope that you will continue to offer help, tolerance and assistance to those in need,” he said.
Although the community is shocked by yesterday’s events, Rawlings said that the University will remain open.
“We will continue to keep Cornell University open and pursue work as an academic community,” he said, recognizing that “our lives and thoughts are different than they were [yesterday] morning.”
Rawlings also advised against blaming certain individuals for this tragedy.
“[We should make] no premature judgments about the perpetrators of these acts. Members of the Cornell community are not responsible for the actions of others,” he said.
Rawlings said that he hopes Cornell will remain a “tolerant and humane campus.”
Ken Clark, director of the Cornell United Religious Work, also addressed the mass of mourners.
“Words fail us at a time such as this,” he said. “In our minds and hearts we experience shock, confusion, disbelief and fear that we cannot express.”
Clark deemed yesterday’s events “a collective tragedy.”
“We mourn for those who died, for those who had nothing to do with the causes and issues related to these horrible, horrible events. We mourn with their families and friends,” he said.
“Our prayers and our hearts go out to those who survived the tragedy,” Clark added.
He called the attacks an event that will allow the community to “recognize our common humanity.”
Clark asked the gatherers to join him in a non-religious prayer, afterwhich the group shared a moment of silence for “all who have been affected.”
The Cornell Chorus and Glee Club performed several songs, and led the crowd in a somber rendition of “O, Beautiful for Spacious Skies.”
Students at the gathering expressed shock at yesterday’s terrorist attacks.
“I think we don’t know what to think,” said Kimberly Greziano ’04.
Maura Kennedy ’04 agreed with her friend, noting that “the main reaction is shock that this would happen in our country.”
Other students thought that the entire situation seemed surreal. “It looked like a movie,” said Danny Lee ’03.
The tragedy hit close to home for many students, especially New York City residents. One Stuyvesant High School alumnus watched his alma mater being evacuated on the news.
For some students, yesterday was an excruciating time of wondering whether loved ones were injured in the attacks.
“The day was extremely difficult,” said Seth Harris ’03, whose mother had traveled from Albany to New York City to attend a business meeting in the World Trade Center. Harris did not know if his mother had survived the attacks until late yesterday evening.
“[Yesterday] tested my strength. There were many times I wanted to break down into tears but I couldn’t because my mom wouldn’t want that,” said Harris, a Sun staff writer. “I thought positive thoughts and hoped for the best. Now I’m just praying for others.”
Josh Roth ’03 was also unaware of his father’s whereabouts. “I just saw my father’s building collapse a few hours ago,” said Roth, whose father worked in 7 World Trade Center, which collapsed several hours later. He later learned that his father had escaped unharmed.
“My aunt and uncle were supposed to go to work at the Trade Center today … but they didn’t go because my grandma was sick,” said Paul Liu ’04.
Other students were unaware of loved ones’ whereabouts due to the FAA’s decision to suspend all air travel until this afternoon.
“My dad is flying in from India and I have no idea where he is,” said Kathir Palanisamy ’03.
Students from outside the United States were also affected by the terrorist attacks.
“It’s a horrible act. I’m shocked,” said Ammar Olabi grad, who is from Lebanon. Although surprised by yesterday’s events, Olabi did not think that people in his homeland would have much of a reaction to the attacks.
Yesterday’s gathering was planned after current and former members of the Student Assembly approached the administration about holding a gathering to address yesterday’s events, according to Uzo Asonye ’02, president of the Student Assembly.
“Students urged the president and vice president to hold a rally. We felt it was necessary for the community to show unity and address the incident. The Cornell community responded, which is a great thing,” Asonye said.
After the vigil, students lingered on the Arts Quad, sharing their reactions, offering support and praying with one another.
Heather Schroeder contributed to this article.
Archived article by Stephanie Hankin