More than 1,000 students, faculty and staff gathered Wednesday to share their thoughts and gain perspective on this week’s terrorist attacks.
Just 24 hours after the tragedies in New York and Washington, Elon administrators canceled the 10:45 a.m. class so members of the
community could gather to help each other cope with the wide range of
emotions they are experiencing.
The meeting was led by President Leo M. Lambert, who called Tuesday’s attack, “surely one of the darkest days in history.”
He told students that faculty and staff members are available to listen to their concerns and questions. “We don’t have all the answers, but we will
He recalled the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the subsequent assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. He said those events “are seared into my memory.”
“I believe your memory will be marked indelibly by the national tragedy that took place yesterday.”
President Lambert paused for a moment to allow the crowd to hear remarks from President Bush in a live address to the nation.
Afterward, Lambert reflected on the tragedies each generation has had to cope with. He said by the time he graduated from high school he had seen television footage of the first moon landing, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the Vietnam War and the fall of President Nixon.
“It was quite a time to grow up with the television bringing these events into our living rooms. I didn’t sense the ground underneath had shifted. Yesterday, I felt the ground shift. America will be different because of what’s happened.”
He said he hoped the community “will better understand the causes of the deep-seated hatred” that led to Tuesday’s attack and “that we will continue our journey toward that more perfect union that the founders had intended.”
Student Government Association President Trey Bolton called the tragedy the challenge of his generation. “Our nation will survive. Our school and our student body will find a bright tomorrow,” Bolton said. “This generation of ours will have the privilege to help rebuild. We will always hold this dreadful memory, but we will also be able to describe our survival and reconstruction. If we are to learn anything from our experience, let it be a knowledge that we, together as friends, have endured the worst, and bonded with a better understanding of each other and our community.”
President Emeritus Earl Danieley, who was on campus during the 1941
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and who served as president during
the Vietnam era, added historical perspective on the modern tragedy.
“Whatever has happened to our community and to our nation, we have
always stood together,” Danieley said. “We are profoundly shocked and
deeply saddened by the monstrous evil which struck, an unwarranted
and dastardly blow against the United States … but in the midst of our
anger, our grief and our sadness, I stand before you to remind you that
it has always been the Elon way to rebuke evil, to stand for freedom and
justice, and to move forward in unity as one great family.”
Philosophy Professor John Sullivan noted with irony that he heard news
of the disaster just as he was about to lead his class in the study of
Dante’s great poem, “The Divine Comedy.”
“I said to my students: Today, we are in the dark wood. Today, we are at
the gateway to Hell. There it is on the screen. The Manhattan skyline, its
twin towers collapsed; clouds of smoke muffling screams of horror. The
sky blackened with the pain, not of hurricane or flood, but the pain that
humans consciously cause to other humans.”
Sullivan said each person carries the seed of evil within them, and can choose to “create hell or heaven” day-by-day and moment-by-moment. “The simple truth is this,” Sullivan said, “Hate is never overcome by hate. Strange as it seems to so-called realists of any age, hate is only overcome by love.”
“May our journey lead us — as Dante’s did — from dark wood to White Rose, from our potential for violence and ignorance and cruelty to our potential for living a larger life and following a higher way. In all this, may we who companion one another be moved by love, by the great love that overcomes hate, by, in Dante’s words, “the love that moves the sun and other stars.”
Gina Roberts, an Elon counselor, encouraged students to talk about their feelings
concerning Tuesday’s attack and to seek counseling on campus if necessary.
“We have faced a crisis together. For some of us, yesterday was the end of innocence. We are catapulted into a reality that is no longer familiar to us.”
Several students said they thought the gathering was worthwhile.
“I thought it was really good. It was helpful because you got to hear different perspectives and hearing that we’re all in this together and that we’re all a big family helped a lot,” said Erin Martin, a freshman from Newton, N.J. “I still have some friends who have family members missing in New York, which is
Sally French, a freshman from Germantown, Md., said, “It was very inspiring. It opened my eyes to other people’s opinions and how other people were reacting to this, because Tuesday I was locked up in my room dealing with it.”
Barry Collins, a senior from Stewart, Va., said, “I thought it brought everybody together in a time of prayer that was needed. It let everyone experience their feelings as a community. I’m really still shocked (by the attack). It’s almost like it’s a movie.”
Director of University Relations 9/12