September 17, 2001

Community Gathers For Arts Quad Vigil

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At noon on Friday, over 12,000 Cornellians — students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of the University — gathered together on the Arts Quad for a vigil to commemorate the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance.

This day was established by President George W. Bush to mourn and remember the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11th.

Classes between 11:15 a.m. and 1:25 p.m. were canceled and many Cornell employees were excused from their workplaces in order to allow more members of the community to attend the vigil.

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. During the vigil, shouts for an ambulance interrupted the singing and many students jumped to their feet as others ran to help. Although Gannett: Cornell University Health Services will not disclose the individual’s name, Janet Corson-Rikert M.D., Director of Gannett, confirmed that “the individual was treated and released.”

President Hunter R. Rawlings emphasized the support Cornellians have given each other in the past week.

“Cornell is united in its condemnation of terrorism. Cornell is united in sympathy for the innocent victims of violence and hatred,” he declared.

Rawlings posed the question of what Cornellians can do to aid the nation and answered it by stating: “We will do what we do best: educate our students in open classrooms and campus-wide teach-ins; conduct our research and scholarship in open labs and libraries, publish our work in open journals and airways.”

Highlighting Cornell’s role in fighting terrorism, Rawlings proclaimed, “Terrorism is the negation of freedom and responsibility; Cornell is a beacon of freedom and responsibility.”

He also commended the Cornell community for many “random and concerted acts of kindness.”

Prof. Emeritus Walter F. LaFebre, american history, followed Rawlings, advising the listeners of the importance of international awareness and civic responsibility.

“We cannot be both ignorant of other people and remain free; we cannot be intolerant of great cultures and races with which we share a shrinking planet and remain free; and we cannot surrender centuries old constitutional principles … and remain free,” he said.

Reverend Kenneth Clark, Director of Cornell United Religious Work (CURW) invited everyone to join him in a “moment of prayer” and as many listened with heads bowed and hands clasped, he prayed “that from the ashes of these horrible events of Sept. 11 there will emerge a phoenix [of] justice and truth, peace and understanding, respect and acceptance.”

The vigil also included a poetry recitation, African chanting, and performance by the Cornell Chorus and Glee Club.

“It was impressive when everyone was doing the hand thing,” commented Jill Sollenberger ’05 on the hand wave that accompanied the chanting.

Marisa Pilievo, an employee of Cornell Student and Academic Services, who helped along with many others in organizing the vigil commented that it was a “University-wide effort.”

“It worked because so many people pitched in,” she said.

Barbara Jastran, a health educator for Gannett: University Health Services, commended the University for organizing the vigil.

“For many, closure won’t happen forever, or for a very long time. Getting together as a large group may help people express their feelings.”

Lisa Clark, an Human Resources Information Systems & Records Administrator agreed that “everyone needs a connection at a time like this.”

Archived article by Liz Novak