A moment of silence: Elon remembers Sept. 11, 2001

The Elon University community banded together Tuesday at College Coffee as hundreds of students, faculty and staff bowed their heads in memory of loved ones lost and a nation changed in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001. Details…

Six years ago and almost to the moment, under the same blue sky on a warm September morning, Elon University administrators received word during College Coffee that two planes collided with the World Trade Center in New York. They learned of a third jet plunging into the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C. And minutes later, as the significance of the crashes dawned on everyone, information reached campus that a fourth airliner fell from the sky in western Pennsylvania.

University students lost loved ones in the attacks. And what was supposed to be a day of celebration – College Coffee that morning doubled as a pep rally for the new Rhodes Stadium – turned to a day or mourning.

“We were shocked, stunned… just as you were six years ago when you learned of the news,” university President Leo M. Lambert told students Tuesday in front of Fonville Fountain. “All of us were afraid. And all of us have been changed by the events of Sept. 11, 2001.”

University chaplain Richard McBride followed Lambert with a prayer of remembrance. His words:

“O God, to whom we turn when we need to think larger thoughts than our own thoughts, when we need more compassion than we are capable of and a deeper understanding than we know how to achieve,

“This morning we remember those whose lives were lost in the Twin Towers, at The Pentagon and in a field in Pennsylvania, so many lives lost because violence took up residence in human hearts, violence justified as holy and a sacred duty.  Teach us again and again how to know the difference between setting things right in the world and falling into a blind rage. Keep us ever on guard against self-justifying self-righteous madness.

“For the innocents who died 6 years ago today – treasured friends, family members, emergency responders – we offer our prayer that they are held in your embrace. For the families and friends who still endure a hole in the heart, we pray that they are embraced by your unending care.  And make us who remember the hands and feet of compassion to all who suffer.

“We pray for our military men and women who have died in service to our country, for the thousands more who have suffered horrific injuries, and for their families who must bear the loss.  We pray for Iraqi and Afghani citizens who have died or been maimed by the violence in their countries, and for those who are made refugees, fleeing the terrifying conditions of their homes.

“O God, we want to see ourselves as a compassionate people, a beacon of hope and security in the world, but these years have taught us that we are capable of great destruction in the service of what we deem to be a great ideal.  We must learn from our errors.  We must beware the arrogance of power.

“So, within this community devoted to higher learning, make us diligent students of violence and its causes, of religion and its distortions, of politics and its abuses.  And make us more deeply committed to peacemaking through diplomacy, to the elevation of the common good over personal ambition, and to the daily practices of compassion – the sturdiest of virtues.  By Your Grace, Amen.”