September 13, 2001

Students Gather At Prayer Service

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Nearly one-hundred students gathered yesterday on Ho Plaza for a non-denominational prayer service to remember those lost in the tragedy in New York City and Washington D.C.

Members of the Cornell community sat on the grass facing Willard Straight Hall as some of the University’s 25 religious organizations shared words, prayers and songs in memory of those who lost their lives Tuesday in what is being called the worst terrorist attack in the history of the United States.

Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) and the Office for Student and Academic Services organized the vigil yesterday afternoon.

“We wanted to do something of a particularly religious nature, to have an opportunity to reflect, to share,” said Rev. Kenneth Clarke, director of CURW. ‘What we are trying to do here as a religious community is contribute to campus life by providing a presence in a time of need.”

Clarke expressed his appreciation that so many students and chaplains came together on such short notice, adding, “This was put together fairly quickly and we tried to get as many participants as possible.”

Speakers from the Buddhist, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities gathered to offer prayers last night, which lasted less than 30 minutes. Several top administrators attended the ceremony but allowed the religious groups to lead the service, in contrast to yesterday’s candlelit vigil which drew thousands of Cornellians.

“I think the idea is just to provide as many opportunities as possible to have Cornell students come together,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III. “The point is to give different viewpoints on campus the chance to be heard. We’re a diverse community; this is a good opportunity to do that.”

Rawlings described the “somber” tone of campus, though he added that “students want to help and find outlets.”

A representative of the Muslim Educational and Cultural Association, who identified himself as Dr. Toorawah, recited the prayer from the first book of the Koran and said after the ceremony, “We’re not all different. We’re the same, even if we’re not citizens of this country. We’re all part of humanity and what hurts one of us, hurts all of us.”

A Christian representative followed the lead of President George W. Bush in reciting Psalm 23.

For Andrew Ulon ’02, the vigil was a way “to reflect on what happened and pay respects to people who lost family members. I figured it was the least I could do.”

Annie Rosenberg ’02 attended the ceremony as a way to deal with the shock.

“I’m searching for something to do. I don’t know what to do with myself,” she said. “What happened is unfathomable. I’m just trying to get on with school as usual, but I can’t stop thinking about victims and their families.”

Students and administrators took a positive outlook on the reaction of the Cornell community to the crisis. “There’s a heightened sense of community, whether its through people stationing themselves in Ho Plaza to find out where to donate blood or through the vigils. The fact that you need an appointment at the Red Cross to donate blood shows people’s response,” said Jamie Porco ’03

“This not only has affected people in the city, but all over the country,” said Pamela Diaz ’02.

Susan H. Murphy ’73, vice president for student and academic services, pointed out the similar hurt that everyone at the gathering was feeling across religious lines.

“To come together in a spiritual way was very important. We have an incredible richness of religious tradition,” she said. “I think it’s marvelous the way the community is coming together.”

Suniti Maheshwari and Manuel Mongalo contributed to this article.

Archived article by Beth Herskovits