Elon Reacts to the National Disaster

News of the attacks on New York and Washington spread through campus just as the College Coffee celebration got under way. The Elon marching band had just finished its entrance onto Scott Plaza and football coach Al Seagraves was to address the crowd in preparation for Saturday’s inaugural game at Rhodes Stadium.

Rather than continue with the celebration, President Leo M. Lambert spoke briefly and then called on Chaplain Richard McBride to lead students, faculty and staff in prayer.

After College Coffee, members of the Elon community tried to absorb the news by gathering in front of televisions and calling loved ones on cell phones. Buck McGregor, associate professor of accounting, says he hasn’t felt this way since President Kennedy was assassinated.

“I told my class this morning that I would understand if they didn’t feel like they could stay,” he says. “It’s going to be a dark day in the history of the world.”

John Burbridge, dean of the Love School of Business, also had a strong reaction to the news, as he has a son who lives in lower Manhattan. “It’s just horrific,” he says, adding that he got the call that his son is okay.

Freshman Mike McKenna, who is from Boston, says the attacks are making him suspicious of air travel. “It makes me think about the security and all the flights I’ve been on lately,” he says.

Other students also expressed concern about travel. Courtney Russell, a senior who’s originally from New York, says her cell phone has been ringing off the hook. She was supposed to fly to New York later this week for her birthday. “I don’t even know if I’m getting up there,” she says. “I’m just shaken up because I’m supposed to fly. Everybody’s shaken up.”

Like many people across campus, Teresa Walker, secretary in the Love School of
Business, says she never imagined that something like this could happen. “I just
thought they kept better tabs on that stuff,” she says. “I’m obviously very naïve as far as the security goes. With the Pentagon, I’ve just always thought of it as a controlled space.”

Phyllis Phillips, secretary in the School of Communications, agrees. “This is not
supposed to be happening to us,” she says.

Many students and faculty gathered in the lobby of McEwen to watch the events unfold on the TV, which is usually tuned to CNN. Phillips says many students have asked to call their parents, and they have been letting them use the office phones.

Pamela Baker, also a secretary in the School of Communications, says that many of these students were upset, since they have family in New York or Washington.

“I’m just wondering if we’ve still got more to come,” she says. “We all need to be in prayer.”

Richard Keene, a senior who is taking political science classes this semester, says he is curious to see how the country will react to today’s events. “It will be interesting to see how people’s perspectives will change (toward terrorism),” he says.

Students working at the information desk in Moseley Center were busy answering calls and questions Tuesday morning. Erin Cunningham says that when she got to work at 10:45, people were crowded around the TV in complete shock.

Jessica Sabo, a senior from Connecticut, says her mom called this morning to let her know about the tragedy. “I’ve got a friend who’s a New York City cop right now,” she says. “I’m sure he’s out there.”

Lauren Vilis, a junior from Charlotte, was supposed to go to a music-radio conference in New York tomorrow. “It’s so gruesome just looking at the people walking around in the rubble,” she says. “It’s just catastrophic. By
the time they get a death count, this is going to be a Pearl Harbor.”

Sabo says the information desk will be open 24 hours a day with services. “Whatever we can help out with, that’s what we’re here for,” she says.

Joy Carter, a senior from Maryland who works in the Campus Shop, says students have been talking about the attacks all morning. “A boy came in here — his mom works at the Pentagon. He said he’s on the way home,” she says. “There’s so many from Elon in that area.” Carter’s own mother works for the Department of Agriculture in downtown DC.

Like in McEwen and Moseley, crowds were watching the news in Belk Library, where an extra TV was set up for those who wanted to watch.

“We’ve had lots of people around,” says assistant librarian Teresa LePors. “They’re doing lots of e-mailing and Instant Messaging to friends and relatives.”

Elon students, faculty and staff packed the Elon Community Church late Tuesday afternoon for a community prayer gathering. “I’ve talked with many students and faculty today who are numb,” President Lambert told the group. “We are collectively in a state of despair, confusion and anxiety about what will happen next. Let us draw on the power of this community and the power of prayer to help us in this time of crisis.”

Several prayers were offered during the gathering, after which Chaplain McBride addressed the group. “We do not yet know who will be determined as responsible for today’s attack, but my prayer is that we will not rush to judgment.”

McBride called on members of the Elon community to support each other during this time of crisis. “Let this be a place where healing can begin, calling on God for support,” he said.

Mandy Dixon, Web writer 9/11