Public honors 9/11 anniversary at vigil
Members of university, Newark communities remember nearly 3,000 lives lost in Sept. 11 terrorist att
Published: Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, September 13, 2011 19:09
The only audible sound was cicadas and crickets chirping in the humid air Sunday night. Hundreds cupped their hands over the flames of white candles, encircled by paper placards bearing the names of nearly 3,000 lives lost.
Ten years ago, 4,000 people flooded The Green for a candlelit vigil. The worst terrorist attack on American soil had shaken the nation on the morning of Sept. 11, and individuals, shocked and confused, mourned 2,997 victims that night.
More than 1,000 members of the university and Newark communities reflected on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in the same place in front of Memorial Hall Sunday night, an area that has served as a natural gathering for many vigils throughout the school's history.
The majority of attendees were current students, a generation whose halfway mark in life is marked by the terrorist attacks. Today's university students were in elementary and middle school a decade ago.
"There was the time before, there was the time after," said junior Kayla Iuliano in a speech during the vigil.
Before the vigil began, members of the university's Emergency Care Unit manned several tables stocked with candles and round sheets of paper covered in victims' names. At the beginning of the night, boxes full of nearly 400 candles stood at the ready at each table. As students found their spots on the grass, sophomore Casey Jarvis' table was nearly bare.
"We've had literally hundreds come by," said Jarvis, dressed her in UDECU uniform.
The candlelit ceremony began with several university a cappella groups performing songs such as "Meaning" by Gavin DeGraw and "God Bless America." A soloist sang the national anthem as the crowd stood.
Several of the school's religious and spiritual leaders then took the podium in front of Memorial Hall, saying a few words and prayers to comfort attendees. Speakers represented many faiths, including Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam and the Episcopal Church.
Kim Zitzner, the minister of the university's St. Thomas More Oratory, said the vigil marked the first time university students are gathering as adults to honor the victims killed on the day that altered American history.
"You were children whose childhood was forever changed and shaped by September 11th," Zitzner said.
Rabbi Eliezer Sneiderman, of the university's Chabad Center for Jewish Life, opened the vigil 10 years ago. The atmosphere of the anniversary's vigil this weekend was unlike that of a decade before, he said.
"Then, the campus was in shock," Sneiderman said. "Students were still trying to call home and see if their families were safe. The evening was punctuated by cries and tears. Now, we know who is safe, and who is lost."
The resulting memories of those college students in 2001, though perhaps just as vivid, differ from those of today's students, he said.
"For today's college students, the New York skyline never had Twin Towers," Sneiderman said. "For today's undergraduates, less of your years were with them than without. The class of 2015 was in second grade when the towers fell. They couldn't call home with a cell phone or huddle in the Rodney lounge to watch the news."
After speeches by religious leaders and Iuliano, a member of the university's Army ROTC, five large candles planted on a table in front of Memorial Hall were lit in turn. Four commemorated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the airplane crash in Shanksville, Pa., respectively. The last candle was lit to honor lives lost in terrorist attacks after 9/11.
Professors and other administrators then passed around lit candles to students seated on the grass. The glow moved down The Green, toward the commemorative ribbon display near Delaware Avenue, as attendees passed on the flame. The flickering light illuminated victims' names written on the circle placards. Several moments of silence followed.
Lubby Gregg, a university alumna who currently lives in Hockessin, Del., attended the vigil to honor her neighbor's grandson, who died on 9/11 at the age of 23. He had just started a job at the World Trade Center.
"This vigil is very important and personal for me," said Gregg, whose daughter is a member of Air Force ROTC on campus.
Senior Holley Kline held a candleholder bearing three victims' names as she stood amidst the glow on The Green.
"I wanted to honor those who can't be represented by their families tonight," Kline said.
Unable to fully comprehend 9/11 as a young child, freshman Chris Beardsley said he was at first convinced the attacks were just an accident as he watched the news with his grandmother in their living room.
"I didn't think something like that would ever be intentional," Beardsley said.