Somber assembly hears speakers, prays on national day of mourning

Travis Reed

The mood was somber and contemplative at Northrop Mall on Friday afternoon as hundreds of University students, faculty and community members gathered in recognition of the National Day of Mourning.

Community representatives of several faiths spoke, sang and prayed on the steps of Northrop Auditorium for the victims of last week’s terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and encouraged tolerance and reason.

At times, an American flag waving frenetically at half-mast atop the auditorium was the only audible noise among the crowd.

“Right now, as we’re filled with every conceivable emotion, we’re here to provide comfort, healing and support,” said Janet Wheelock of the University Episcopal Center.

Attendees looked up and down, alternating between tear-tinted gazes at speakers and hanging heads in grief, staring at the black-and-maroon-speckled gray concrete.

The sky was just as gray as the pavement Friday afternoon and a brisk breeze rushed through the mall, shaking trees and chilling spirits.

“I just came by to pray for all the victims,” said Colin Kemmis, a junior biology major. “Just showing up is a way to be there for all of these people.”

Passers-by who didn’t seem to know about the ceremony and happened upon it on their way someplace else slowed their pace and stopped on the mall as speakers related traditions and perspectives of their respective religions.

Baptist, Lutheran, Jewish and Catholic speakers prayed and sang for those killed in the attacks.

Wheelock called for a moment of silence and then encouraged attendees to recognize – aloud or to themselves – the names of people they know who were afflicted by the attacks. Many only muttered the names, but a few raised their voices, piercing the still, damp air with their mournful reminders of friends and family lost.

Harry Savage, a College of Liberal Arts student who attended the ceremony, said these types of gatherings are essential, but he wants to see the country move past the stage of mourning and on to the next step.

“I think we should have parades and ceremonies cheering Americans,” Savage said. “We should rebuild the World Trade Center and have triumphant ceremonies.”

A different kind of next step faced attendees of the gathering as Wheelock closed the proceedings.

With nothing holding their attention as the speakers descended the front steps of Northrop Auditorium, many appeared unsure about where to go – strangely disoriented at the most central location on campus because they wouldn’t normally find themselves there at that time in the afternoon.

Slowly, they gathered their belongings and quietly walked their separate ways.

 

Travis Reed welcomes comments at [email protected]