Flickering candles dotted the crowd on the Diag last night, as several hundred students gathered at the campus wide ceremony to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
LSA seniors Chris Dietzel and Jenna Weinberg spearheaded the event after they realized there was no official 9/11 campus commemorative event scheduled for yesterday.
“(Jenna) and I both agreed that it was necessary and decided to take it upon ourselves (to) step forward and have the service we all wanted,” Dietzel said.
The 30-minute vigil began with a short introduction by Dietzel, who emphasized the importance of inspiring change in the world.
“Our goal for tonight’s memorial is first and foremost to remember and recognize all of the lives lost because of the September 11 attacks,” he said. “But also we are here as a campus united to strive to obtain respect, understanding and peace.”
Dietzel’s address was followed by School of Music, Theatre & Dance sophomore Shea Rennee singing the national anthem. Vice President of Student Affairs E. Royster Harper spoke next on the steps of the Hatcher Graduate Library and told the crowd that she stood in the exact same spot 10 years ago when students congregated on the night of the attacks.
The two vigils events succeeded in bringing students together, Harper said.
“One of the things that was clear 10 years ago that is clear tonight is that we are more similar than we are different,” she said.
Relaying a message from University President Mary Sue Coleman, Dean of Students Laura Blake Jones urged students to remember and reflect and to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11. Jones went on to recall her own memory of that day.
“I lived on the West Coast, and I woke to a phone call from the East Coast telling us what had happened, and as a parent I spent time thinking, ‘How are we going to break this news to our children?’ ” she said. “(9/11) changed our country and our world and undoubtedly impacted the childhood of adolescents.”
After Jones spoke, LSA senior Annie Sajid and School of Music, Theatre & Dance student Jonah Thompson took the podium to discuss how 9/11 affected their lives. A Muslim American from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Sajid said she faced fears of discrimination in the wake of the attacks. But she said her family didn’t let this fear discourage them.
“My family took this challenging time as an opportunity to bridge gaps instead of create them,” Sajid said. “We would lead Islam 101 dialogues to raise other’s consciousness. I encourage our generation to do the same.”
Similarly, Thompson stressed the importance of social advocacy on any level.
“Think about the things we say and the things we do, and challenge the assumptions that divide our community,” Thompson told the crowd. “We have the potential, and we have the challenge. All that is left is for us to rise to it.”
The vigil, which concluded with a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,”
was well-received by attendees as well Weinberg and Deitzel, who expressed surprise at the turnout.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how things went tonight,” Deitzel said. “Just to see everyone come together with such reverence in such a powerful and inspiring way … (shows) how far we’ve come.”
Dental School student Elena Petrova-Amstutz said in an interview after the vigil that she volunteered at ground zero the day after the 9/11 attacks. She emphasized the anniversary’s importance for all Americans.
“I hope that we will never forget the day and that no matter where we are — in the U.S. or anywhere in the world — we will always remember the people who lost their lives,” she said.
Business School senior Jeff Ong said he felt the ceremony had an appropriate and reflective tone.
“Any time something tragic like this happens, it’s always a good time to reflect, take a step back and assess how you are working to affect some kind of positive change in our society,” he said.