University remembers Sept. 11
Ten years after tragedy, community participates in series of events during past weekend, including candlelight vigil, memorial
Nearly 1,000 students joined together in solemn tribute at a Sept. 11 candlelight vigil in the Amphitheater last night, as University members commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The vigil opened with an a cappella rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" by the Virginia Glee Club, followed by a speech from Student Council President Dan Morrison. Next, the vigil featured a documentary comprised mainly of students reflecting on their Sept. 11 experiences. The vigil then closed with a speech by Sept. 11 survivor Tom Duke.
Duke, a 1969 graduate of the Commerce School, was sitting at his desk on the 104th floor of the World Trade Center's South Tower on the morning of Sept. 11, he recounted. Although the North Tower was hit first, the workers inside the South Tower could feel the tremors of the first plane crash throughout their building.
Duke spoke about "the horror" he felt losing 66 of 83 coworkers who were in the tower that day, including his two best friends.
"Life is fragile. We don't know what is coming tomorrow or even in the next hour," Duke said. "I know this sounds trite, but if you haven't called your mom or your dad today, do it tonight."
He also gave thanks to the hundreds of servicemen and women who gave their lives to help others escape the wreckage. "We were fleeing and they were rushing in," Duke said of the firefighters and volunteers who passed him and his coworkers as they descended 104 flights of steps in their attempt to exit the South Tower.
Following Duke's speech, a documentary gave accounts of the locations and experiences of 13 University students on that fateful day 10 years ago. In the documentary, Allen Groves, associate vice president and dean of students, noted the challenges that will come in future years as undergraduate students of the University, who were between 8 and 12 years old when the wreckage of Sept. 11 changed their world, are replaced with students who were too young even to remember the events.
Future generations "are going to have to learn from other people what it was like," Groves said. "They won't have 'the powerful experiences' in their memory."
For those in attendance, the vigil served as a profound reminder as the tragic events take their place in the annals of history.
"Although sad, [it] lent us well to what it's like to be an American" and to be one of the last generations with a coherent memory of Sept. 11, third-year Engineering student Jack Wilson said.
Organized by University Programs Council, the vigil was part of a series of events sponsored by various University groups to honor and remember the 10-year anniversary throughout the weekend. A memorial was organized by fourth-year College student Evan Davis, president of the Student Association of Firefighters, EMTs and Rescue Technicians. The University's 9/11 Memorial, which took place in the Dome Room of the Rotunda yesterday afternoon, featured a variety of speakers who spoke about the significance of remembering Sept. 11 and honoring the victims and heroes of that day.
"Even without organized remembrances it would be impossible for us to forget" what happened on Sept. 11, a day which "opened a gash in time," President Teresa A. Sullivan said in her speech.
U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Charlottesville, also spoke at the memorial. "At the intersection of blue sky and fire ... America rose," he said.
Following the speeches, a piece of steel from the World Trade Center, which was donated to the University, was brought out for display.
Yesterday's speakers emphasized to the University community the importance of remembering Sept. 11 and honoring the heroes and the fallen. Duke underscored the significance of honoring and appreciating the outpouring of courage in the midst of strife.
"Life is quirky and unbelievable, but life is beautiful," Duke said.
Today, the University community will be able to view a memorial display of the names of all the American victims of the attacks. An Interfaith Dialogue will take place at the O-Hill Forum from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. tonight.
-Kiki Bandlow contributed to this report